Have you come down from the high of being 2-0 yet? It’s a little overboard if you’re still psyched, but oh well. Las Vegas Raiders fans are nothing if overly emotional fanatics, after all. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look back at the defensive performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First and foremost, thank the football gods that the Raiders signed Denzel Perryman. Fresh off his fumble recovery in overtime against the Ravens, he’s now tied at 11 tackles with Johnathan Abram following Week 2, which leads the Raiders. Perryman has been everything Las Vegas hoped he’d be. It’s made all that much more impressive with him only being a Raider for a few weeks.
Next comes Trayvon Mullen. It was a bit of an up and down day for the Raiders cornerback. He gave up four receptions on seven targets for 65 yards. Thankfully, the big interception early in the game and five tackles offset the receptions. He needs to get better about not giving up receptions, obviously, but when he did give up the catch, he got them to the ground. Mullen is giving up just under nine yards per time he’s targeted this season, per Pro-Football-Reference. That’s solid tackling.
Who else should Raiders fans be grateful for?
A few more players to highlight are Casey Hayward, Maxx Crosby, Solomon Thomas, and K.J. Wright.
We will start with Hayward; he had two near interceptions and has been a shutdown corner. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stay healthy while dealing with some cramping issues. This resurrection of the long-dead Raiders defense is in no small part due to his acquisition. The drop-off when he wasn’t on the field was noticeable as well.
As for Maxx Crosby, he was a beast as always with six QB pressures. Crosby’s biggest play was teaming up with Yannick Ngakoue to force a bad pass. In turn, that pass was intercepted by Mullen. He will have a monster season if he continues to be the emotional and physical leader the Raiders need him to be.
Solomon Thomas was the star of the pass rush on Sunday, though. He finished with two sacks and a pass breakup. He also had his altercation with Steelers guard Trai Turner, which resulted in the ejection of the star lineman. The change of scenery is doing the former top-10 pick of the 49ers well.
Lastly, K. J. Wright has been a crazy good addition. He’s never in the wrong spot. Wright has not missed a beat after previously spending his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks. Knowing this is the origin of Gus Bradley’s defense, it should not be surprising. However, when considering what fans have been accustomed to, it’s a refreshing sight. He only had one tackle Sunday, but his presence was felt all over the field.
What’s next for this defense?
Next up, the Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins. To have the chance at revenge for the loss that broke the Raiders’ back last year couldn’t have come at a better time. It feels good being 2-0, but 3-0 all against AFC teams? That would get the NFL world talking about the Raiders.
It will take another big day from the Raiders defense to be victorious. So far, they have risen to the challenge the first two weeks, but can they do it again on Sunday against Miami? We will see. I can guarantee one thing; Raider Nation cannot wait to find out.
*Top Photo: Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal