CJ's 2 Cents
The Raiders defensive front 7 got completely mauled last Saturday by the Niners in a 20-21 loss. The Niners rang up 275 yards on the ground on 47 carries. In the context of an exhibition game, what really concerns me most is what happened in the 1st half when the Raiders played most of their defensive starters.
It is startling that 1 basic play was run over and over and over again by the Niners with continued success. Rookie RB Coffee was able to gouge the Raiders defense for 129 yards on only 16 carries which equates to over 8 yards per carry. This basic play was the Niners guards pulling and the tackles power blocking.
Said defensive end Greg Ellis: “They were pulling some of the linemen around and we’re just going to look at it. I’m pretty sure the coaches are going to come up with a solution to make sure that doesn’t happen again. It wasn’t like they were able to run any play and get yardage on us. That one play, we just didn’t handle it well. They did what they should, they kept doing it one side to the other and they kept having success with it.”
The question I have is why an in-game adjustment wasn't made by Defensive Coordinator John Marshall? Improving the run defense is paramount for any team success in 2009.
Unfortunately, the run defensive woes isn't just 1 thing that can be easily "tweaked". It is a combination of numerous factors.
(1) Poor tackling
There were plenty of times vs. SF where (a) our players are in the right spot but lacking the fundamental techniques to bring the carrier down upon contact or (b) the Raider defender allowed the ball carrier to drag him for an addition 2,3,4 extra yards.
(2) Inability of the DL and LBs to get off/shed their blockers
Watching the game vs. SF, what I noticed was that the Raider D had a VERY difficult time disengaging from their counterpart. Shedding the blocker and wrapping up the RB is basic stuff that was faulty throughout most of this game.
(3) Lack of discipline
Each individual player needs to focus on his individual assignment/responsibility and trust that their teammates will do their own job. This was evident every time a defender over pursued and neglected maintaining gap control.
(4) Lack of aggression and toughness
The Raiders front 7 got completely manhandled by the Niners OLine. Cable put it correctly although he used a poor choice of words when he said that the defenders "need to set their jaw". In other words, winning the physical one on one matchups is the essence of winning the battle.
(5) Lack of in-game adjustments by the coaching staff
This is in reference to countering what the opponent is doing. Changing up defensive playcalling, adjusting formations, schemes, gap controls, and personnel accordingly is imperative to stopping the bleeding.
(6) Lack of talented run stoppers
Our front 7 that doesn't have 1 single player who is noted for being a good run stopper. Since we don't have any outstanding run defenders, the team needs to compensate for this lack of talent with discipline, scheme and collective aggression, and most importantly, a coaching staff that puts a premium on improving this area.
My personal belief is that the Raiders need to commit their energies, coaches' meetings, personnel, and focus to making the necessary improvement of run defense PRIORITY #1. If this means sticking SS Tyvon Branch in the box, so be it. If it means putting in the best personnel at stopping the run, I'm all for it. For example, I wouldn't be opposed to using DE Trevor Scott as only a situational pass rusher. I wouldn't disparge the useage of newly acquired LB Nap Harris even if it means sitting Kirk Morrison. If it requires scouring the waiver wire for a run plugging DT, go for it.
Whatever it takes to force the opponent to put the ball in the air to beat us the better chance we have to win. Pass defense is clearly the strength of the unit. If we allow opponents to run the ball down our throat without an answer, it will be next to impossible to have a successful 2009 campaign. Sure, it might have been only a preseason game in August but I don't think it is too early to ring the bells in order to put the emphasis and urgency in fixing this major shortcoming.
P.S. Hard to believe but "CJ's 2 Cents" was my 200th post at SBF ... time flies by way too fast!