There’s going to be sometimes where the offense scores a lot of points and there’s going to be sometimes where they struggle to get points. It’s my job to understand how the game is going in that direction, but it’s the players job to stop the offense. -Raiders Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther
One would hope Guenther understands that if this team is going to seriously contend, string together some victories and make a run at the playoffs his defense is going to have to be a whole lot better.
Defense is coming up short
At the halfway point this Oakland Raiders defense is giving up an average of 27.4 points per game which is the 5th most in the league. They are ranked 16th in total yards (2647), 10th most in total points (192), 5th least in total plays ran (433), 5th most in average yards per play (6.1), 30th in turnovers forced (5), 17th in first downs allowed (153) ,and ranked 4th highest scoring percentage per drive with (43.8%).
The strength of this defense, has been its run defense. Surprisingly stout, only Dalvin Cook of the Vikings has broken the 100 yard mark on the season. As a whole, the 650 yards rushing is the 4th least in the NFL. Five rushing touchdowns allowed ranks 10th, the 3.7 yards per carry is the 5th lowest, and the 33 first down rushes are 7th least. On the ground the Raiders defense is smothering the run.
Pass defense has been killing the Raiders dead. Incapable of stopping anyone through the air, the Raiders pass defense has become an opportunity for a career days for opposing quarterbacks. Starting the season in a man and zone combo style defense, as the injuries have mounted, a soft zone has been adopted. The zone has been awful and the Raiders secondary is very rarely in position to make a play on the ball.
Against the pass, the Raiders have allowed the 11th most passing yards while opposing teams 242 attempts are the 8th least in the league. Opponents 164 completions are t-16th most, and the 19 passing touchdowns surrendered are T-2nd most behind Arizona (24). Raiders only have three interceptions on the season, 2nd fewest in the league, and 28 passes defensed, 5th least.
Raiders are no longer leading the league in penalties. In fact, it seems for the most part they have gotten the penalty situation under control, they have the 5th least accepted penalties (47) and the 6th least penalty yards (397). However, they have been plagued by major penalties with 25 penalties awarded 1st downs to the other team which is 2nd most in the league. For a struggling defense, those are simply backbreakers.
Missing in Action
No pun intended, when you look at this installment of the Raiders defense most of the difference makers are missing in action. The pass rush, while the 13.0 sacks acquired is equal to 2018’s total, it is also currently the 7th least in the NFL. Benson Mayowa is ranked 6th in the AFC sack race with 5.5, and has the only 2 forced fumbles recorded by the Raiders all season.
Vontaze Burfict, the field general and Guenther’s coach on the field has been missing in action since Week 3, suspended for the season on a “Witch hunt”.
The hard hitting enforcer, #27 pick in the draft, Johnathan Abram gave us 48 plays, a few big hits, a PBU, and one torn labrum later he’s been missing in action. On IR after showing what a difference maker he could be in Week 1.
Gareon Conley got so bad after having been a top ten corner last season, that they traded him to an in season opponent the week they played him. Then had the audacity to lose to his new team when he finally got to slide on pass interference calls he had been previously flagged for.
Scheme fit but a production bust
Number 4 pick in the 2019 draft, Clelin Ferrell, has struggled mightily to say the least. A weakside defensive end at Clemson, Ferrell has been brought in and asked to play the strong side, and then been moved inside to defensive tackle. The power and leverage he played and maintained in college just hasn’t seemed to transition to the NFL. His lack of elite NFL explosion is crippling his ability to gain an advantage coming off the edge. One of the few things Ferrell has been able to do successfully is keep contain and set a good edge in the run game.
In the season opener against the Broncos, Ferrell registered two hits on the quarterback and his only sack of the season. Week 2 against the Chiefs was the last game a tackle for loss was recorded. In the 42-24 loss to the Packers in Week 7, he failed to register a statistic. In his last three games, Ferrell has recorded 1 solo tackle, 1 assisted tackle, and 1 pass defended in 151 snaps. Guys get cut and cast out of the league for a lack of production like that.
I don’t know what exactly is the plan with Ferrell, or how they fix it for this season because he’s not close to being ready to make an impact.
Mad Maxx in the (510)
Max Crosby, the 4th round pick from Eastern Michigan got some recognition from Trent Brown in training camp, now he’s getting playing time. Crosby has been the only consistent high motor play-in play-out defensive end on the line. Crosby has shown a penchant for attacking the ball carrier and the ball.
In his last three games Crosby has eight tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and a forced fumble in 166 snaps. Remember, Crosby has only started one game, against the Texans. Crosby has been earning playing time week by week with his effort. Crosby has also been doing it practically all by himself, Mayowa is the pass rushing specialist and only has 132 snaps all season. Ferrell has been a non-factor, Josh Mauro and Arden Key have taken turns being injured.
The good news is they have a real dog in Crosby. He’s a tough old Texan, like the way they used to make them. Crosby might have a little Howie Long in him, just maybe. If they can get some more production and consistency around Crosby, they can produce a steady pass rush.
Judging from the lack of production across the board an argument could be made for the lack of talent. It could also be a very serious continuous coaching flaw. Being so married to the scheme players that continue to be asked to do something they clearly don’t feel comfortable with is dangerous.
Any fool who wouldn’t draft Josh Allen because he didn’t fit the scheme, should have been fired. A good coach will adopt his scheme to maximize the talent he has in it.
For example, Trayvon Mullen has had two games where he jumped a route and had hands on the football. Perhaps, call a defense which allows him to hone his natural playmaking instincts to the speed of the game. Maybe stop having Karl Joseph and Lamarcus Joyner on 6’5+” receivers. Maybe, instead of faking a double a gap blitz, actually send them.
As mentioned earlier this defense is going to struggle all season long. Someway somehow defensive line coach Brentson Buckner and Guenther are going to have to find a way to get better rushing the passer. It’s Guenther’s job to place his defenders in the best possible position to succeed. If the players aren’t getting the scheme then something else needs to be done. Losing is never an option, Just Win Baby!