As we wait for the first set of practices in Napa, we can’t help but question our secondary situation. It’s our primary concern. DJ Hayden and Keith McGill are two players we’ve primarily focused on this summer. They’re now in the Only Nation’s doghouse as we await the PUP’s diagnosis. There’s been a lot of speculation about McGill, but we don’t possess enough tape on him to make an accurate analysis. But I think we can all agree his maturity, size, and athleticism intrigue us. Like I’ve mentioned before, speculation does’t mean a thing in this league and we’re now forced to wait even longer to see what he’s capable of. I’m not sure if he harbor’s shutdown corner characteristics but one can wonder.
DJ Hayden lacks collegiate tape as well and is simply a mystery to Raider Nation. He could quite possibly be the same to Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie. Since joining the NFL just over a year ago, he’s spent more time in the training room than Darren McFadden. You can’t really blame the guy but something is wrong. Even though he was highly touted coming out of Houston we haven’t seen any type of impact from the 2nd year player. Inconsistency and injury have caused Raider Nation to lose hope in Reggie’s 1st round choice. At this point it almost seems as though getting any type of production from Hayden would be an added bonus for Oakland. After his near death experience, you have to root for the kid but we can’t continue to make excuses for him. Hayden has only been a pro for a little over a year and has a long ways to go to become a reliable starter in the NFL. Hopefully we’re able to see him on the field soon and he acquires enough NFL experience before the season begins. As of now, he’s Allen’s best chance to develop a solid cornerback so let our words be gentle towards this fragile youngster.
Before I move on, I wanted to touch base on another concern that should be priority. Do you think the quality of Oakland’s practice fields is a factor regarding player’s foot injuries? More on this next week…
Dec 16, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen looks on during the second quarter in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Allen is sweating again while venturing into his 3rd year as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. This year is different in more ways than one but he has to be perspiring over our depth issue at cornerback. While we all wait to see who Oakland brings in, we have to be patient. Just like the aforementioned players, it’s a waiting game, so there’s no need to speculate in regards. Reggie McKenzie won’t rush to sign a player just because we need a body. Our secondary has been a weakness for Dennis Allen since joining the team, but it isn’t the first time he’s been handicapped in the secondary.
Since his stint in Denver, Dennis Allen has possessed a secondary with limited players that were forced to play to their strengths. Meaning, they couldn’t do everything well. Allen’s front seven in Denver was a strength and it aided the effectiveness of his secondary. In comparison, we have to be cognizant of our revamped defensive line as it should have a similar impact in our defensive backfield. When you review the last two seasons the depth and solidity across the defense has been questionable overall. Lamarr Houston was a good player but I also place him in the “play to your strength” category. Sacking the quarterback wasn’t his forte. Allen has not only lacked a playmaker in the secondary, but a playmaker in general. While in New Orleans and Denver, Allen was able to boast an effective defense that and a handful of playmakers. Now that he supposedly has a few playmakers in Oakland we should witness improved efficiency.
According to STATS LLC, the Broncos increased their sack total from 23 to 41 while tying for the sixth-most blitzes on pass plays in 2011. Despite their significant roster turnover that year, the Broncos improved from 30th to 19th in Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA metric. Allen’s defense improved from 31st to 24th against the pass, and 29th to 13th against the run. He’s had a similar impact on our run defense thus far but we’re awaiting consistency at every level and phase of the game. Denver’s 2011 1st rounder, Von Miller, wreaked havoc in the AFC West that year by lining up at multiple positions. Along with Miller’s exceptional season, Denver’s defense was dominant down the stretch as well. A lot of people credited Tim Tebow’s poise and determination, but we can’t discredit Dennis Allen’s defense for shutting opposing offenses down. In their last 8 games, the Broncos held 6 opponents under 14 points. Jason La Canfora of NFL Network was quoted saying. “As much as everyone talks about ‘Tebow Time,’ [the Broncos] were winning games with their defense and their pass rush. Dennis Allen is very polished, and a lot of people thought he was ready to make this jump [to head coach in the NFL].”
As of late, Oakland’s run defense has been solid. The reoccurring problem has been stopping opposing offenses from airing the ball on us. They’ve let all of the air out of those footballs. In all honesty, it’s also taken the air out of our team at times. In a division with you-know-who, we have to be able to stop the pass. As we enter another season with our fingers crossed, we have to remember the improvements made since the end of the season. We have to digest the fact that we’ve been unable to fully unload our defensive playbook. Allen hasn’t been able to execute blitzes and it’s ended up leaving our defensive backs in single coverage. Dennis Allen’s defense has shown us flashes at times, but without a dominant corner he hasn’t had to ability to dictate the passing game. Without a pass rush, it’s hard to dictate anything. Losing Tyvon Branch last year was the icing on the cake. He was the only player on defense that possessed the ability to roam effectively. Losing him for the season could have possibly let the air out of our team long before opposing offenses did.
Jun 2, 2014; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen at organized team activities at the Raiders Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
I’ll go into player analysis once training camp is underway, but in the meantime we have to move past DJ Hayden and Keith McGill. I’ve heard good things about TJ Carrie and there’s a reason why we signed Rogers and Brown. The same reason why we signed Spencer, Bartel, Porter, and Jenkins. In hopes they can cover long enough for our defensive front to apply pressure. Unfortunately the salary cap has disallowed us from attaining any type of pass rush recently. This year, Reggie was able to tap into the free agent market and stock up on talent in the trenches. I believe Dennis Allen now possesses enough fire power on the defensive front to produce impact plays. If his vision is effective, we could see a combination of Denver’s pass rush and the takeaway ability of his teams in New Orleans. But I don’t want to begin speculating.
What if a solid defensive front is all that Dennis Allen needs? What happens if Khalil Mack is the next Von Miller and the last piece to the Mad Scientist’s puzzling mind? I think it’s feasible. If our front works together, Dennis Allen may finally have a group of men that can dominate the line of scrimmage. In my opinion, we haven’t seen the best of DA. I know some of you will bust my chops over this, but I think he’s the right man for the job. Von Miller thought highly of Allen and while at the Pro Bowl in 2012 had this to say. “He was very successful with us and he’ll be very successful with them.” Even though our linebacking core exceeds the talent Allen had in Denver, he simply needs the defense to play together. Dennis Allen has a vision that many analysts discussed and praised back in 2011. Once he’s able to accomplish his vision, our cornerback depth with become a secondary concern, and our primary focus will be our passing game. I’ll discuss that next week.
Follow me on Twitter and behave in the comment section. -JT