Oakland Raiders: Keys to Victory Over Tennessee Titans

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Nov 19, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (82) is defended by Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (51) during an NFL football game at EverBank Field. The Jaguars defeated the Titans 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Forget That Tight Ends Catch Passes Too

Oakland’s struggles defending opposing tight ends has been well documented this season. They’ve gotten absolutely blown up by a string of unheralded names week after week. They’ve done a better job of keeping the opposing tight ends in check in recent weeks and that trend needs to continue.

Perhaps because of the dearth of receiving talent in Tennessee, rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has been reliant on his tight ends this year. Delanie Walker comes into the game leading the Titans in receptions. Walker, with 53 receptions on the season, has almost double the next highest on the Titans’ reception list – Kendall Wright is second with 28 on the year.

Walker and fellow tight ends Anthony Fasano and Craig Stevens account for 79 receptions, 919 yards, and five touchdowns on the season – roughly half of Mariota’s total production.

So Oakland should expect to see plenty of action from Tennessee’s tight end group this Sunday. And they’ll need to make sure their defensive game plan accounts for it.

Of course, with Curtis Lofton struggling as badly as he has in pass coverage, Neiron Ball – who had proven to be highly effective against the pass – and Ben Heeney still learning the position and all of its nuances, the Raiders have some challenges in covering the tight ends they need to deal with. A somewhat thinned out linebackers group is just one of them after earlier this week, the Raiders released Ray-Ray Armstrong.

DC Ken Norton has used Taylor Mays as a hybrid safety/linebacker in certain situations to help shut down the tight ends and the short passing game. And it is a strategy that has proven to be somewhat effective.

They will need to do something to stymie Mariota’s dependence upon his tight ends and neutralize that aspect of Tennessee’s passing game. If they can do that, they’ll put themselves in a position to have some success.

Next: Mix It Up On Defense