Raiders D - Attack Dogs Wanted
The strength of the Raiders team going into the 2008 season was suppose to be the defensive unit. The opening day roster was comprised of proven veteran players (DE Burgess; DT Warren; DT Kelly; MLB Morrison; WLB Howard; CB Asomugha), young players with talent (DE Richardson; FS Huff), and some key, high priced free agents (SS Wilson, CB Hall). The defensive coaching staff has had continuity and stability. Defensive Coordinator (Ryan) and the majority of his staff have been with the club since 2004.
It was also expected that the Raiders offensive unit was going to struggle to produce on a consistent basis in 2008. Even with a proven rushing attack established in 2007, there was the realization that QB Russell would be a work in progress. The current WR corps is not dynamic by any measure. Walker hasn't produced the type of numbers associated with a high priced, #1 WR. Curry is more suited as a #3 slot WR. Lelie was signed a few days prior to the season opener. Schilens is a late round draft choice who is still learning his craft. Higgins is a 2nd year player who received very few reps in 2007. The best target for Russell, 2nd year TE Miller, has been the focus of opponent's game plans.
With the offensive unit struggling to score points, execute in the red zone, establish a dynamic passing attack and offensive balance, it was even more important for the defense to take the lead role. The defensive unit has not achieved a level of consistency required to climb the competitive ranks. This lack of consistency is evident from quarter to quarter and game to game. There have been times when the D has played exceptionally well for stretches of the game but ran out of gas in the deciding 4th quarter. There have also been times where DC Ryan took his foot off the opponent's throat resulting in two 4th quarter collapses (Buffalo, San Diego).
When the defensive unit has played a spirited, aggressive brand of football for an entire game, the team has won 2 of 6 games. In the 4 Raider losses, the D has given up 31.7 points per game. In the victories (23 to 8 vs KC; 16 to 13 vs. NYJ) the defensive unit set the table for the offense by providing good QB pressure and creating turnovers. The offensive unit was the beneficiary of numerous short fields to go to work. The game vs. the NYJ is an example of what the defense is capable of achieving when they play as a cohesive unit. 2 interceptions, 3 sacks, numerous QB pressures and knockdowns were instrumental in a hard fought victory.
In order for the Raiders defense to make a bigger impact, all phases of play must improve. This is very noticeable when you dig through the defensive statistical categories. Currently the Raiders D ranks in the bottom third in most categories. By the end of the season, I would hope that this unit is closer to the top half in league rankings.
|Total Yards per Game Allowed||360.5||26|
|Yards per Rush Attempt||4.6||26|
|Passing yards per game||224.3||22|
|First Downs Allowed Per Game||21.3||29|
|3rd Down Conversion Rate||40.7%||23|