One of the biggest critiques of our beloved Raiders has been the defense. How can we be 7-2 with a defense that is currently ranked 27th overall and 23rd in scoring allowed?
Well my friends let’s look under the hood and take a closer look. Sometimes superficial stats don’t tell the entire story.
Early in the season, while boasting 7 new starters, our defense struggled mightily. You can say it has taken them time to gel plus we faced some of the highest-rated QB’s in the league: Drew Brees—a future Hall of Famer who is 2nd in the league with a 106.7 rating; Matt Ryan—an MVP candidate who is currently the highest rated gunslinger in the league with a whopping 119.0 rating on 2,980 yards passing. Also, add in Oakland’s long-time nemesis Phillip Rivers who is currently 7th in passer rating (96.2).
Out of the gate, our pass rush was non-existent. Ben Heeney looked lost, and it really wasn’t until week 3 when we inserted Karl Joseph did our defense start to play a tad better.
Fast forward to the last 3 weeks where we have held Jax, Tampa, and Denver to 344, 270, and 299 yards, respectively. I know, none of these teams boast top notch offenses, but you can begin to see a defense that is slowly starting to gel.
Add in Khalil Mack who, with 7 sacks in his last 6 games, has helped us reach and maintain the 3rd overall ranking in 3rd down defense, and has us tied for third in takeaways (shout out to Bruce Irvin). Basically when it matters, we are making plays to get off the field on 3rd down or causing fumbles and interceptions! Bend don’t break—it’s a thing. In fact, if you look back to the days of old, the Oakland Raiders have historically been an opportunistic defense. A defense that gives you just enough space before making you pay for it dearly (see Jack Tatum).
With the bye week coming up, and with the theam potentially getting Sean Smith, Mario Edwards Jr., and Aldon Smith (if re-instated) back we may finally start to see the defense start to not only be more consistent, but to take over games during the toughest stretch of the 2016 season.
A second half defensive surge would not be unlike what we saw last season. In 2015, the boys in the silver hats got off to a slow start by giving up an average of 412 yards a game through the first 8 matchups. At the halfway point, they were ranked 30th overall. In the second half of the season, the team shaved 100 yards off of their per game average and watched LB Khalil Mack put the fear into opposing quarterbacks by garnering 11 of his 15 sacks in the last 8 games.
With a surplus of defensive acquisitions and draft picks last offseason, this team was expected to dominate the defensive side of the ball. It’s not far fetched to believe that the Raider defense will rise to the occasion and commit to excellence going forward down the stretch. In the meantime remember or credo: Just Win Baby!
Written by: 303Raider
Edited by: Kenny Stapler
Note: Please, don’t call me Shirley.