ALAMEDA – The Raiders defense won't be mistaken for the 1985 Bears. That's okay. They don't have to be to win games. Not with a Derek Carr-driven attack scoring in bunches.
Good, not great. Serviceable. That's the need.
That is not Reggie Nelson's expectation. The veteran free safety isn't a C student. He certainly won't aim for the middle.
He has no interest in clearing a bar set by anyone on the outside.
"I could care less about what people think," Nelson said Tuesday. "Not to be so blunt, but I could give a rat's whatever about all that. As long as we're good in this locker room, that's the only thing that we need to worry about. If the guy next to you is working hard, that's important while we're trying to piece this defense together."
The defense wasn't good in the preseason. It looked far better in a 26-16 victory over Tennessee. Improvement came as the game went on, especially on third down and in the red zone.
Communication was far better. For the most part, the Raiders were on the same page and played disciplined, fundamental football.
"I thought they played well," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "We were better on third down. We were good in the red zone. They have a physical offensive line and some good back and we didn't want to let them get loose. It was a good effort. They do a lot of different motions and shifts and things you have to be ready for. It was good to see that preparation come through."
The performance wasn't perfect, but it left many wondering if the Raiders defense might just be better than expected. Nelson doesn't care about that, either.
"You have to ignore the noise," Nelson said. "If you worry about what others are saying, it can throw your game off. That's when you start thinking about things other than doing your job."
Nelson's a captain, and wants his charges singularly focused on improvement and maximizing the defense's potential.
"It's going good," Nelson said. "There's still a lot of work to do around here. They young guys know that. The older guys definitely do. We just have to put our heads down and grind."