Before this season began, Raiders players talked excitedly about being in a new defensive system.
The Oakland defense no longer was going to be a straightforward, man-to-man scheme with little blitzing. There would be multiple fronts and coverages and defensive coaches would be sending linebackers and defensive backs at the quarterback from all directions.
“We’re just looking forward to playing for a defensive head coach, getting to play a real defense,” said defensive back Michael Huff this summer.
So what happened?
Nine games into the season, the Raiders are 3-6 and have given up 284 points – an average of 31.6 points a game. While not all those points were allowed by the defense, most were. And, over the past two weeks, the Raiders have lost 42-32 to Tampa Bay and 55-20 to Baltimore and now await the arrival of Drew Brees and the New Orleans on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
The Raiders rank 31st in the league in scoring defense, 22nd in yards allowed per game (374.9), 24th in pass defense (255.9) and 21st in rushing defense (119.0).
Head coach Dennis Allen, who molded the Broncos into a much better defense last season as defensive coordinator, and first-year Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver have been unable to consistently stop opposing offenses.
After being run over by Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin for 251 yards and four touchdowns, Oakland concentrated on stopping the run against Baltimore, and did contain running back Ray Rice – but Ravens QB Joe Flacco picked them apart through the air.
Gains in one area are erased by losses in others.
On Monday, Allen said there is no excuse for the Raiders’ leaky defense.
“That outcome was unacceptable,” he told reporters. “We have to be better than that.”
Allowing 97 points over two consecutive games is the second-worst total in Raiders history.
“I wish there was a magical answer,” Allen said. “I know everybody wants a magical, ‘This is the solution,’ but at the end of the day, and I’ve said this over and over, it’s about us doing our job the right way every single time. And when we develop that consistency, when we’ve had that consistency, we’d played well in all three phases. But that’s the key to having success.”
Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com’s Around the League editor, wrote Monday that the Raiders just don’t have the defensive personnel to be effective. The injuries and lack of depth at cornerback have been painful, linebacker Rolando McClain isn’t the player Oakland had hoped for and the roster “is a strange mix of castoffs and former Al Davis picks. There are no easy solutions.”
As Rosenthal noted, “There just aren’t enough impact players on either side of the ball.”
Raiders defensive end Andre Carter said it was discouraging to give up so many big passing plays in Baltimore after working hard to shut down the running game after the breakdown defensively the week before vs. Tampa Bay.
“It’s just amazing,” Carter told The Associated Press. “The week before we didn’t stop the run. This week we stopped the run. Great progress, especially with Rice, because Rice is a heck of a back. So it’s like, ‘OK, good.’ Pass is the issue. Oh my gosh.”
Allen disputes arguments that the Raiders don’t have enough talent – but those outside, looking in, see that the Raiders need a steady influx of new players through the draft and free agency over the next few seasons.
Allen says he and his staff will continue to evaluate everything they do, week to week, looking for ways to play better.
“We’re going to look at every aspect of what we do, offensively, defensively and the kicking game, and if we feel changes need to be made, we’ll make those changes,” he told the media.