Hue Jackson is a Raider. Let’s just get that clear right now. He coaches with the swagger you’d expect from any man in Silver and Black. He also knows how to talk the talk of a man with his finger on the pulse of Raider Nation.
Each Friday Raiders.com empties its mailbag on Coach Jackson’s desk and allows him to respond to a few questions from the fans. This week he took on topics ranging from what Al Saunders will bring to the offense and his realistic expectations of the offensive line.
All of the questions posed to Coach Jackson and his answers to each are well worth reading. You can see them all here.
Perhaps the most pressing issue the Raiders have faced over the last decade has been the inability to stop the run. Coaches have come and gone. Players have been singed, traded, drafted, cut and moved to different positions all with similar results. This team just can’t stop the run. Coach Jackson made it very clear this is one of his top priorities.
I’ve said it to our staff and I’ll say it to our team, I am committed as long as I’m here that we will stop the run. That’s a passion of mine. I think when teams can run the ball on you they defeat you. When people run up and down the field on you, what they’re saying is they’re more physical than you and they’re better than you, and I’m not going to be the leader of a football team that’s going to get out-physicalled. I refuse to do that. I’m not saying we’ll never get beat. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is I’m not going to allow someone to take the ball and run it down our throats. I’m not going to be a part of that. That’s how I feel about it and we’re going to get that buck stopped.
Coach Jackson talks a good game, that’s a big reason why he got promoted after one season in the East Bay. As much as I like to hear him discuss the issue I’d like to know what he and Chuck Bresnahan have planned exactly. We all know who is really in charge of the defense in Oakland. No matter who has the DC title it’s always the same 4-3 alignment, press coverage on the outside, one deep safety look on the field. Coincidence? I think not.
If there is one guy that’s going to help turn the tide against the run it will be Matt Shaughnessy. Jackson singled him out as the most improved player on the team last year. There are some that even see a Pro Bowl on the horizon for Shaughnessy. And why not? Once a pass rushing specialist, Shaughnessy has steadily improved against the run and is quietly coming into his own as an every down defensive end.
But Jackson’s words and Shaughnessy’s ability alone won’t be able to stop the run. Something fundamental has to change in Oakland. No matter the scheme, stopping the run is about two things. The first is responsibility. Each player must maintain their responsibilities at all times. The second is all about effort. Stopping the run is a mind state. It takes a determined attitude and an aggressive approach.
There were moments last season when you could feel the determination of the Oakland defense against the run. In fact, the Raiders were usually very solid when it came to controlling the ground game. The problem was there would be lapses in concentration that would lead to long runs. Week one against Tennessee is a perfect example as Oakland held Chris Johnson in check for most of the first half. Then – bam! – a 76-yard scamper to paydirt and the rest was history.
Jackson’s swagger isn’t enough to make a difference in defending the run but it is a start. He says all the things Raider Nation wants to hear. Now it’s just a matter of producing all the things Raider Nation wants to see of the field.