These days, it’s trendy to blame Derek Carr for all of the Oakland Raiders woes. However, let’s not forget that their defense is nowhere near where it has to be to make this team a contender.
This past Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had what you could call a “pedestrian” game with 15 completions, one touchdown, and a completion rate of 51.7% against the Raiders defense. You’d think the score would’ve been a lot closer instead of the massacre that was 40-9.
A Painful Comparison
It’s painfully clear that Jon Gruden’s defense simply is not on par with the NFL’s best. Let’s draw a parallel with a defense that is part of the upper tier. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN recently posted a tweet regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their season. Yes, it’s impressive that the team is in the hunt for the playoffs down to bare bones at quarterback, their offensive stars from last year long gone, and no JuJu Smith-Schuster.
No Big Ben.— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 1, 2019
Bell and Brown long gone.
No JuJu, no Conner, no Pouncey or Tuitt.
Fourth-string QB from training camp.
Pretty incredible resolve from the Steelers.
The Raiders have had their own woes with Antonio Brown and have suffered injuries across the board on both sides of the ball. Yet, at 6-6,many already feel this season is lost or at the very least, will not result in a playoff spot. Then, why is there no confidence in this team? Well, unlike Pittsburgh, Oakland does not have a defense they can rely on, not yet at least.
A Work In Progress
It would be asinine to compare the Raiders and Steelers defenses as there is no comparison. Can anyone think of a time when Pittsburgh didn’t have a good or great defense? Before you tell me some year where they weren’t “that good,” just put it in perspective when was the last time the words “Raiders” and “great defense” went hand in hand.
However, not all is lost.
The Foundation is Being Laid…
Moving forward, the Raiders have some young core pieces in place already that could help transform this unit. Maxx Crosby, who has 7.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, and three forced fumbles is on his way to becoming a franchise pass rusher. Trayvon Mullen, the corner from Clemson, figures to be a long-term mainstay in Oakland’s defensive backfield. With 29 tackles, six pass deflections, and one interception, he’s solidifying his place moving forward. Johnathan Abram was lost in the first game of the season, but remember the man had a solo tackle and a pass deflection. Raider Nation is anxious to see this young man return next season and take his place as a captain on this defensive squad.
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Maurice Hurst is quietly having a good season with 15 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and 3.5 sacks. Let’s not forget Clelin Ferrell, the polarizing first round pick of this past year’s NFL draft for the Raiders. The rookie’s individual stats are not exactly eye-popping with 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and five pass deflections. However, his status as the fourth overall pick is what draws fans ire. Fact is, he hasn’t been used as a pure pass rusher and has been moved throughout that line in the course of the season. The talent is there, and as one half of “Salt and Pepper,” he’s not going anywhere.
Going into next year’s draft, general manager Mike Mayock must have another draft where he hits on his picks, just like this year. Linebacker is a complete disaster and the team had misses in free agency such as LaMarcus Joyner, who will be an expensive mistake. As depressing as the prospect is to many fans, the truth remains that as far as this year’s concerned: the Raiders will go as far as the offense will take them.
Finally, before Raider Nation gets excited about the Ron Rivera firing, they have to get used to the fact that Paul Guenther isn’t going anywhere.