Is The Defense Becoming An Issue?

Lamarr_Houston

(Photo Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
Lamarr Houston hasn’t gotten to the quarterback successfully in a month

by Jim Turvey

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Through the first twelve weeks of the seasons the Raiders had only given up more than 30 points twice, once to the red hot Peyton Manning and once to the record-tying Nick Foles. In the last three weeks, however, they have given up over 30 points every week. Giving up 31 to the Cowboys isn’t the worst, but 37 to the Jets and 56 to the Chiefs are both embarrassing totals.

This has been especially frustrating for Raiders’ fans who thought that the defense was the unit that needed less work in the team’s rebuilding process. The front seven, in particular, had been having a good season, and Jason Tarver’s schemes seemed to be able to get good pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

So where have these high point totals come from? A couple of places:

The Offense/Special Teams

The Raiders’ offense has put the defense into some bad spots lately, particularly in the Chiefs game. The Raiders had seven turnovers in the game, and the Chiefs had three scoring drives of less than 30 yards, not even including a 47-yard pick-six from Eric Berry in the first quarter. When the opposing offense starts with the ball already in field goal range, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense to limit point totals.

The Raiders’ special teams unit has been a disappointment all year, and against the Chiefs their kick coverage was shaky all game. Against the Jets, seven points were given up as the result of a blocked punt in the second quarter, and although the special teams got the Raiders points to start the Cowboys’ game, their 30th ranked special teams unit per DVOA (before the Chiefs’ game) shows the weakness of the unit all season.

The Big Play

In Sunday’s game, the Chiefs had seven touchdown drives (not counting Berry’s pick-six as a drive), and not a single drive took more than seven plays. Part of this was the fact that three of those drives were less than 30 yards, but there was also the one play, 49-yard “drive” to start the game and the three play, 80-yard “drive” after the Raiders had climbed to within four points.

In both of these drives, Jamaal Charles burned the Raiders. Charles is an elite NFL player, quite possibly the most talented running back in the league right now. Even with that being said, him getting eight catches for 195 yards and four touchdowns is unacceptable.

When your team sits at 4-9, with the playoffs no longer an option, and draft position sitting there as motivation to lose, it’s easy to see how a defense can be a bit checked out, but I like to hope that Tarver and Allen aren’t promoting that ideology after a decade of losing in Oakland.

Fatigue

As good as the Raiders’ defense was at times this season, Jason Tarver’s scheme relies on a great amount of depth, as the blitzing secondary, in particular, can get burned out quickly. In this point of the Raiders’ rebuild, they do not have very good depth, a problem they will almost certainly look to fix this offseason through the draft and free agency. I believe the Raiders’ defense has a good enough skeleton to be an above-average NFL defense, but they need the depth to allow Tarver to call his blitzes.

 

Verdict

By finishing with Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning, the Raiders’ defense will have to face two more offenses capable of putting up big points – hopefully the defense can prove itself capable going into next year. Several players will have two final chances to prove that they should be with the club next season, and on the flip side, the Raiders will be able to figure out what they need to get this offseason.

Author: Jim Turvey

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