Oakland Raiders: Things To Watch For vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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Aug 29, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) against the Chicago Bears in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 21-10. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Defense vs. Jeremy Hill

Though it got a bit stronger later in the season – relatively speaking – the Raider run defense was atrocious for most of the 2014 season. When a key stop was needed, the run defense couldn’t seem to stop anybody. In nine of the team’s first twelve games, Oakland surrendered well over a hundred yards. For the season, they gave up a tick under 120 yards per game.

This offseason, the organization spent a lot of time and energy putting some solid pieces in place to shore up that leaky run defense. They brought in the likes of Dan Williams, Curtis Lofton, and Malcolm Smith – all proven run stuffers. Put together with Justin Tuck, Khalil Mack, and Justin Ellis, the Raiders have a very formidable defensive front who, on paper, look like they will be hellish against the run.

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Bruce Irvin's familiarity with Derek Carr served him well in Lions' debut
Bruce Irvin's familiarity with Derek Carr served him well in Lions' debut /

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  • Cincinnati provides a very good first test of just how all that offseason work to build a better run defense is panning out. It will provide a solid gauge of where they’re at and how much farther they have to go.

    Bengals running back Jeremy Hill was fantastic last season. For the season, Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and an impressive average of 5.1 yards per carry. He added nine touchdowns along the way. To say he’s a dangerous back would be an understatement.

    Though Cincinnati is likely going to try to test Oakland’s young, inexperienced secondary early and often, a strong push by the defensive front may help alter those plans. After all, Andy Dalton can’t throw to his receivers if he’s flat on his back.

    Which may lead them to turning to Hill to help soften up the defense. The Bengals may try to feed the Raiders a steady diet of Hill in the hopes that it will loosen up the pass defense. But if Oakland can shut Hill down, they will make the Bengal offense one-dimensional, and allow the Raider pass rushers to pin their ears back and get after Dalton.

    Next: The Smith Effect