Oakland Raiders: Was Scheme Or Talent The Issue For The Defense?

Dec 29, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) scores a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders find themselves with another top five draft pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft after another highly disappointing season. It was a tale of two seasons for the Raiders, as they were 3-5 in their first eight games and had an outside shot at the playoffs. The Raiders then followed it by going 1-7 over the final eight games of the season. The collapse of the defense was a key contributor to awful second half of the defense gave 30 or more points five of the final eight games. Was it a talent and player issue or a scheme and coaching issue for the Raiders’ defensive woes over the course of the season?

The Raiders made a lot of personnel changes during the offseason prior to the start of training camp. General manager Reggie McKenzie shook up the roster through free agency and the draft, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders’ end of the year defensive depth chart featured just a single returning starter from 2012. Many would have considered most of the players an upgrade from the previous season, except for the defensive line and the middle linebacker position. The Raiders lost two of their top three players in linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant. The Raiders also lost starting safety Tyvon Branch to an injury from early in the season.

They were able to find some impact from new additions, such as defensive lineman Pat Sims, linebackers Sio Moore and Kevin Burnett, and defensive back Charles Woodson. There also several new additions that failed to make any sort of impact, such as defensive lineman Jason Hunter and defensive backs Mike Jenkins and Brandian Ross. Ross was in the lineup due to the injury to Branch.

The Raiders’ dearth of talented depth played a major role in the failures towards the end of the season. It also affected the schemes of defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, as he had to change what he wanted to do to try and compensate for the weaknesses of the defense. The biggest sign of this was the Raiders’ blitz percentage. Towards the end of the season, they were top three in the NFL in blitz percentage, as Tarver tried to manufacture some pressure with his front four struggling to create pressure by themselves. This would leave the defensive backs vulnerable in one on one coverage, which opposing quarterbacks were able to take advantage of.

Many fans wanted to criticize coach Tarver’s defense for being too predictable, as they struggled on the key downs. They finished near the bottom in the league in opponent’s third down conversion percentage, which is what many of the fans are pointing to. In the first half of the season, the Raiders were pretty solid on third down. Injuries then started taking their toll and bodies began breaking down during the season, which Tarver had to simplify his schemes to account for the constant shuffling of the roster.

While the defensive scheme did account from some of the blame, the onus of the blame falls on the shoulders of the players. They simply had a break down in focus and execution, as the season rolled on. Poor tackling and broken coverages were all too common during the defensive slump and those are things that fall on the players. While McKenzie was able to find some nice additions to the defense, he needs to add some more play makers. Additional pass rushers and defensive backs should be the focus for the Raiders’ executive.

Topics: Jason Tarver, Oakland Raiders, Reggie McKenzie

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  • Jacob Steele

    Middle Linebacker not upgraded? Roach came on really strong, especially towards the end of the year. He had more of an impact than Pat Sims, and was certainly better than McClain.

  • Jacob Steele

    Also, I realize that this is borderline irrelevant to the overall idea of the article. Haha.

  • Demarkus Tramail Swan

    No, the issue was DA hosing Terrelle Pryor.

    • John Bencomo

      Your full off shit like tp broke ass not knowing how too read a defense ass is gonna do something he couldn’t even beat out an undrafted free agent rookie who is better by the way

    • Lar Dog

      Pryor is done being a regular starting NFL QB. Raiders might release him

  • Bob

    D seemed to run of of gas in the second half of games and got worse as the season wore on. How many leads did the Riders lose again (5-8?). They came damn close to blowing it agaist the Steelers too. At some point the O has to move the ball, take time off the clock, and score in the second half too. This contributed to the D wearing down too,

  • Rees Britton

    I think you are being a tad harsh on Roach and Jenkins, both I thought played pretty well. Two players you could point fingers at ar Burnett and Porter… Burnett played ok, but it seems to me he is always a half step slow. And Porter had a disastrous year…

  • Lar Dog

    Many of the players played too many snaps. DL for one, CB’s for another. Better upgrade this year

  • Stanley Carr

    Fuck all the excuse Allen fucking sucks… Rex Ryan had less talent n a turnover machin at qb, n still went 8-8 it’s d coaching…..