The Oakland Raiders thumped the New York Jets last Sunday by a score of 45-20. Although the defense gave up 20 points and allowed a couple big plays, this year’s squad has shown dramatic improvement over the 2016 defense which was at the bottom tier of the league, albeit it has been just two weeks to show for it.
It’s important to note that in the first two games of the year the Raiders won the opening coin toss; and chose to receive the ball! In contrast to last season when the team and head coach Jack Del Rio almost always deferred when winning the opening toss. What’s with this new strategy? Many believe it’s part of a new overall scheme to put points on the board early and then institute a new, more aggressive defensive package. A package that brings more blitzes especially from the defensive backfield.
Against the Jets, Raider’s number one draft pick in 2016, safety Karl Joseph blitzed six times, had a strip sack and three QB pressures. From the safety position. This is a major departure from the 2016 scheme which rarely blitzed and almost never generated pressure from the safety position.
The safety blitzes coupled with Del Rio’s decision to opt for the ball on the opening toss gives credence to the idea that there is a new philosophy in the Raider’s clubhouse. They know their offense can and will score. They intend to take the lead and let their defense put their ears back and attack opposing quarterbacks.
Of course, when playing aggressive defense like this, there’s always the danger of an opponent beating your coverage and scoring over the top with no safety help. However, the Raider’s coaching staff knows that if this happens, quarterback Derek Carr and company will have the ball again soon enough. Few teams in the NFL have the necessary firepower to beat the Raiders in a shoot-out, which is why letting the dogs loose in the defensive backfield makes sense from a schematic standpoint. As for fans and the Raider’s defensive players, it sure is fun to watch!