The Las Vegas Raiders had a chance to roll out their new look defense for the first time. Lamar Jackson and the explosive Baltimore Ravens offense was a perfect first test. A lot of answers were provided; however, some questions still remain.
Week 1 is officially in the books. Between a wild fourth quarter and mind-boggling overtime, it can be easy to forget how good of a game the Raiders defense had. Being asked to shut down Lamar Jackson isn’t something that many can accomplish. The primary goal is to simply limit his impact. The Raiders did that and then some. While Jackson had his moments of brilliance, they were few and far between.
A good defense in football is built on each different group doing their job efficiently. The defensive line needs to get after the quarterback. Linebackers need to control the middle of the field, and the defensive backs cannot allow anything outside or beyond the linebacker box. That’s the usual recipe for success. So, how did each position group handle their portion of the recipe?
Defensive Line – Grade: A
Usually when you say something “looks good on paper” it often disappoints in reality. However, this does not apply to the new-look defensive line from the Raiders. It was apparent that Jackson was uncomfortable all night.
The defensive line managed to rack up three sacks (two from Maxx Crosby and one from Carl Nassib), seven quarterback hits, and two forced fumbles, according to Pro-Football-Reference. The ability to create pressure with just four rushers is something the Raiders have been missing for quite some time. With the performance on Monday night, it would seem as if they have found what they’ve been looking for. It should be interesting to see if they have the ability to replicate their performance in Week 2.
Linebackers – Grade: B
The linebacker group had several question marks going into Monday. How would K.J. Wright and Denzel Perryman fair with a limited offseason? Can they replace the speed of Javin White and Nicholas Morrow? Will Cory Littleton return to Pro Bowl-caliber form under a new defensive coordinator? Most of those questions were answered positively.
According to Pro-Football-Reference, Perryman and Littleton ended tied with the team lead in tackles at 10. Wright was only on the field for 54 percent of the defensive snaps but held his own while out there and even made an explosive play in the Ravens backfield to stop Latavius Murray and force a turnover on downs. However, the lack of speed was evident in the passing game and when Jackson would scramble.
Gus Bradley is known for his zone defenses. However, to play this style of defense, it’s only effective if the linebackers can limit underneath throws to four to five yards at most. Jackson and Co. had zero issues with moving the ball with short to intermediate passes on Monday night. Jackson only averaged 7.4 of depth per pass attempt, per Pro-Football-Reference. Also, when Jackson would get outside the pocket, they had a hard time rallying quickly to limit the damage. Only speed can replace speed. Going forward, we’ll see how Bradley covers this hole until White and Morrow return from injured reserve.
Defensive Backs – Grade: Incomplete
In a traditional school setting, if you received an incomplete grade, it was usually due to missing assignments or not having enough data to effectively judge you. That’s the case with the defensive backs’ performance on Monday. As stated previously, Jackson wasn’t too inclined to push the ball downfield against the Raiders. While this could be attributed to solid coverage downfield, it’s more likely that the Ravens are often content to take what is given to them on offense. On top of that, the wide receiver room in Baltimore isn’t exactly brimming with talent at the moment.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Sammy Watkins were the biggest threats facing the secondary this past week. Brown is primarily a speedster and was used as such on quick hitters and jet sweeps. Watkins hasn’t been someone defensive coordinators lose sleep over for the past couple of seasons. On top of all this, only 16 of Jackson’s 30 attempts were to his wideouts, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
It can be said that the excellent coverage dictated these circumstances but the argument that the defensive line forced a lot of hurried situations is also valid. Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers is where we’ll get to see how the secondary holds up. With JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will look to test this unit’s mettle.
It’s only one week….
Limited data is just that, limited. The more data you have on a given subject, the more accurate your determinations will be. The defense looks to be on the right path at the current moment, however. A player like Lamar Jackson can only be contained and not completely locked down. They have a completely new challenge in Week 2 heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. Another strong performance will have a lot of the naysayers backtracking on some previous statements.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/David Becker