Nature vs. Nurture: Who’s Responsible For Raiders Defensive Struggles?

Gareon Conley (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

You would really have to struggle to think of the last time the Silver and Black had an adequate defense. Wars are waged online about quarterback Derek Carr’s ability to lead the franchise. However, the shortcomings the Las Vegas Raiders have had on defense have hindered the team for many seasons. The last time the Raiders were top in yards or points allowed was in 2006 when they had the worst record in professional football. Coincidentally, Nnamdi Asomugha had arguably the best season a corner’s had in the last twenty years.

The Raider offense flirts with success every few years. The unit even carried the team to the playoffs in 2016, but the defense remains terrible. At this point, it’s arguably impressive that they’ve failed to improve for so long. What’s wrong with the Raiders? Have they had bad players or bad coaching? Who is to blame for the Raiders’ defensive struggles that have persisted for over a decade?

Nature vs. Nurture: Who Is To Blame for Raiders Defensive Struggles

The Players?

Unlike the Baltimore Ravens of the 2000s, the Raiders have not been exceptionally talented on defense. With two notable exceptions, the brilliant Asomugha, and some pass rusher out of Buffalo named Khalil Mack, the team’s talent has been pretty mediocre. Since 2006, the Raiders have used first-round picks on eight different defenders. The only ones that remain in 2020 are the three they took in the last two drafts. Linebacker Rolando McClain and corner D.J. Hayden were busts. Edge defender Khalil Mack was traded to Chicago for a small fortune, and safety Karl Joseph couldn’t stay healthy. Cornerback Gareon Conley was ok, but mostly unreliable. ‘

The Raiders have spent money in free agency, but they haven’t seen a great return on investment. Charles Woodson’s comeback tour was awesome, and he played at an elite level the entire time. But outside of that? Justin Tuck was past his prime, Reggie Nelson was an incredible liability in coverage. Cornerbacks Leon Hall, and Nate Allen, Tarell Brown, and Carlos Rogers were all past their prime when they played cornerback for the Raiders. Meanwhile, the team has completely neglected the linebacker position since they picked McClain. Ever since then, they have filled in the position with run-of-the-mill veterans.

Related: Raiders Week 5 Watch: D-Line Keeps Struggling At Point Of Attack

The Linebackers

Who remembers Super Bowl MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith? What about Perry Riley Jr.? Nick Roach was good until concussions ended his career. The five seconds that Derrick Johnson was a Raider? The “other” Brandon Marshall swung through for a cup of coffee. Vontaze Burfict reunited with Paul Guenther before he got himself suspended. My favorite was probably when the Raiders signed NaVorro Bowman midweek and ended up wearing the dot for the Raiders on Thursday Night Football. Don’t even get me started on Tahir Whitehead in coverage.

Lest not forget the “stars” that the Raiders brought in to fix the defense. Sean Smith, Bruce Irvin, Dan Williams, and David Amerson were relatively young players that were supposed to save the defense too, not that any of them really ever panned out. The Raiders have not had the best players on defense, but if we’re being honest, we might not have noticed, even if we did.

Related: Week 4 Knee Jerk Reactions: Raiders Don’t Have Many Things Going For Them

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1 thought on “Nature vs. Nurture: Who’s Responsible For Raiders Defensive Struggles?”

  1. Gabriel D. Martin

    Although it is definitely a players job to execute and earn his money: Acknowledged, having watched these mentioned sub par defenses, it has to be 3/4 a coaching issue. Why do I say this? Because big chunks are routinely given up. There are lapses of continuity, lapses of intensity, lack of consistency, and the overriding issue is not being in the correct position or in the right lane. Inside containment is a fundamental that is taught and honed in football from Pop Warner, all the way up. Soft zone is not doing it. Has not done it.

    Raiders finally had a good pass rush last year, maybe mediocre that looked good in comparison. Another observation: Raiders habitually bring in players that once produced, or even over produced, but are now done producing. It is rare that a player outplays his skill set. Unfortunately, not rare when they underplay their skill set. Navarro Bowman was such a refreshing surprise. Long in the tooth, relatively, but he came to play. Where the hell is Corey Littleton?

    There is no reason for so many tackles to be missed. Wrap, drive through. Fundamental. Do the coaches demand and instill discipline. You would think they do, but I don’t know. Is it chemistry. Marinelli showed up. We look worse. His two D. Linemen he brought from Dallas? Injured, and/or invisible. I don’t want to hear a damned thing about Derek Carr until Vegas has a defense able to play complimentary football. When I watch with a critical eye, I see uninspired Defenders. It goes without saying that this recipe is wrong.

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