The Raiders are much better in 2019. The defense and offense each have improved significantly from 2018, and Oakland already has surpassed its win total from last season, going from 4-12 to 6-4 (with six games remaining).
But there’s still one ugly aspect the Raiders need to clean up: penalties.
As the Raiders get ready to face the New York Jets Sunday, Oakland ranks as the NFL’s second-most penalized team, with 88 penalties (8.8 per game) for 77.9 yards per game. The Raiders are ahead of last season’s pace, when the team was penalized 110 times (6.9 per game) for 60.3 yards per game.
And, as Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted this week, the problem has been getting worse. He reports 40 of those penalties have come over the past four games.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says all those flags are a problem, wiping out good plays and keeping opponents’ drives alive. Offensive coordinator Greg Olsen told Bonsignore that he and the rest of the staff are stressing proper techniques and also focusing on pre-snap mistakes – false starts, illegal formations and shifts – to cut down on penalties.
In one late-October loss to the Texans, the Raiders were penalized 11 times for 100 yards. In a 27-24 defeat, penalties loomed large for Oakland coming up short by just three points. Sixty of those yards came when the Raiders were on defense, allowing the Texans to keep drives alive.
Said Gruden after that game: "It’s hard to win when you have 100 yards in penalties and give up 30 first downs."
So, as the Raiders try to beat the Jets and keep themselves in the race for the AFC West title, Oakland veteran linebacker Tahir Whitehead says he and his defensive mates must clean up their act.
"If you look at it, there’s a lot of hidden yardage in those penalties within each game," he said. "It’s set back big returns, touchdowns, interceptions. There’s been multiple plays that we’ve had that penalties overturned. We’re aware of them and we’re on each other’s case to make sure that we clean them up."
At least there’s one consolation. The Jets are No. 5 on the penalty rankings, almost as bad at Oakland, with 83 flags for 737 yards.
Sunday’s kickoff vs. the 3-7 Jets in New Jersey is set for 10 a.m.