When the Oakland Raiders flipped nine out of their defensive starters from 2012, the ‘experts’ in the media were quick to point out that the Raiders had the worst roster in the NFL. During the 2013 NFL Draft, I kept hearing the criticism of Reggie McKenzie in his failure to address the defensive end position.
What the experts didn’t know is what Raider Nation has known all along, this bunch of Silver and Black clad warriors are far superior to last year’s team. In this instance, the sum of the whole is greater than the individual pieces. Next Monday Night Football could change the future trajectory of this Raiders team. An upset of the hated Denver Broncos will shock the Nation, and it will bring to prominence the NFL’s prodigal son.
In examining the Raiders’ pass rush, I can see the game plan against the Broncos materializing. The Silver and Black have utilized a defense meant to confuse quarterbacks, often blitzing from any one position. Confusing Peyton Manning may be another story, but it will be fun to watch.
The Donkeys lost left tackle Ryan Clady to a lisfranc sprain and this could be a huge leg up for the Raiders. This week’s game plan will probably feature a man to man coverage on the outsides and a lot of nickle formations to cover Julius Thomas and Wes Welker inside. The pass rush could help keep Thomas in the backfield to protect Manning’s blind side. Sio Moore with his speed should have a good game in coverage and attacking Manning.
The Raiders, through week 2, have compiled nine sacks compared to 23 for all of last season. Along with the quarterback pressure, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has an abundance of good cornerbacks who are able to cover in man and make open field tackles. First round pick D.J. Haden has impressed me with his tackling ability and Mike Jenkins with his coverage ability. The corners have helped the pass rush through disciplined coverage and the back four have helped themselves to five of the nine interceptions.
Tarver’s defense is designed to cause havoc and thus turnovers. Both of the ends Lamar Houston(1) and Jason Hunter(2) have gotten sacks. So far there haven’t been any turnovers, but there has been many negative plays because of the pass rush and run blitz. The two unknown defensive tackles, Pat Sims and Vance Walker, deserve a lot of credit for stuffing the run and thus allowing the pass rushers to key in on the quarterback.
The linebackers have been outstanding in both pass coverage and their gap assignments on run plays. One player I would like to point out for a little criticism is Kevin Burnett, who I have seen miss a few tackles. Middle linebacker Nick Roach has been great in communicating with the rest of the defense on the schemes being employed on every down.
The safeties have done their job covering the top of the defense. Charles Woodson was seen flying on a tackle of Maurice Jones-Drew. The threat of Woodson has meant defenses have had to settle for smaller plays averaging 6.9 yards on 61 attempts against the sixth yardage defense in the league. Tyvon Branch has sustained a foot injury and will be ‘out indefinitely’ according to head coach Dennis Allen. In his absence, we’ll see Usama Young ( 1.5 sacks) and Brandian Ross, who have played well when on the field.
This batch of Raiders are no walk overs, they play with a desire to win. They represent. There is a nice core of veteran players who are molding the younger ones into the next world beaters. In the near future this team will announce itself to the NFL.
The Raider haters have had a decade to ridicule this proud franchise. Soon it’ll be their time to pony up and suffer the dominance of the “Men in Black.”
Enjoy this video of the Raiders’ battle song: