Oakland Raiders: Key Matchups Worth Watching vs. Cleveland Browns

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Sep 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Aldon Smith (99) tries to rush past Cincinnati Bengals tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) in the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Bengals defeated the Raiders 33-13. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Trenches Part II

The Raiders are one of two teams in the NFL who has not recorded a single, solitary sack yet this season — the Chicago Bears are the other. It completely boggles the mind given the fact that they have talent like Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck, and Aldon Smith on their roster.

Part of the blame can and should fall upon DC Ken Norton‘s play calling. Thus far, he’s seemed relatively timid and unwilling to turn his players loose to wreak havoc, sending just four rushers on a good number of plays. The Raiders pass rushers have been outnumbered and because of that, have effectively been neutered in the first two games.

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In the second half against Baltimore, it seemed as if Norton loosened the reins — a little bit. The Raiders were able to apply more solid pressure to Joe Flacco, forcing him to throw the ball sooner than he would have liked on a number of plays. That pressure resulted in a number of incompletions as well as the interception that sealed the game for Oakland.

Norton and Del Rio made the decision to roll with their young and inexperience cornerbacks D.J. Hayden, Travis Carrie, Keith McGill, and Neiko Thorpe. Though Carrie and Thorpe have looked like they are settling in and have played some solid football against a couple of tough receivers in A.J. Green and Steve Smith, Hayden has yet to rise to the challenge, playing very inconsistently.

Oakland’s troubles on defense have been in large part to the inconsistency of the corners, as well as the depletion of their safeties because of injury. Opposing passers have been lighting it up against the Oakland defensive backfield.

Which is in part, because the lack of pressure has allowed Flacco and Andy Dalton all the time in the world to sit back and surgically pick apart that defense.

The Raiders made the decision to let their young corners run the show. Now, they’re going to have to live with it. Norton seems determined to provide cover for them by having his linebackers sit back in coverage and rushing his front four rather than sending bodies from all over the place to hit the quarterback.

It’s time to take the training wheels off.

Oakland needs to apply consistent and sustained pressure on the quarterback by sending players, mixing in blitzes, and creating as much chaos as they can. And because they made the decision to roll with the youngsters, they have to trust them to get the job done.

The time for half measures is over. Oakland absolutely must find their pass rush and find it immediately — the chaos they can create will only serve to help the cornerbacks.

Next: Get The Ground Game Rolling