The Raiders lost promising rookie safety Johnathan Abram in the season opener, then watched other key defenders exit, too.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended. Cornerback Gareon Conley was traded. Safety Karl Joseph was lost for the rest of the season.
And yet, the Raiders defense appears to be not only surviving, but thriving.
Oakland has now climbed to 19th in the NFL in overall team defense, allowing 368.1 yards per game, and 20th in points allowed (25 per game). If that doesn’t sound impressive, consider that in 2018 the Raiders ranked 25th in total defense and dead last in points allowed (29.2 per game). And, the Raiders have won three straight games to improve to 6-4 – second in the AFC West – while holding the Chargers and Bengals to 34 total points.
It’s a huge improvement from early-season dates in which Oakland gave up 28 and 34 points in consecutive wipeout losses to the Chiefs and Vikings.
With rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen and rookie defensive ends Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell adding energy, the Raiders have four defensive takeaways the past two weeks and 10 sacks (from a unit that produced just 13 all of last year).
Now, as the Raiders head to the East Coast this week to take on the New York Jets Sunday, Oakland’s defense and offense seem to both be on the rise at the same time.
Crosby, in particular, has added extra juice to the pass rush. After a four-sack, forced-fumble performance against Cincinnati, Crosby was selected AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Sunday’s game against the 3-7 Jets is set for kickoff at 10 a.m. (Bay Area time).