Oakland Raiders Week 2 Primer: Not So Raven

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Sep 13, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck (91) talks with teammates before the start of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Defense Did What?

There were 16 games in Week 1 and all 31 teams outside of the Raiders have one thing in common. They all blitzed at least once. On the other hand, the Raiders did not call a single blitz for the entire game against the Bengals. This defense went from one defensive coordinator who was an arrogant blitzer, to one who was too scared to blitz. The defensive game plan was very similar to things Raiders fans would have seen under Al Davis, but rather than using man coverage in a Cover 1 scheme, the Raiders went zone with a Cover 3 scheme.

What was witnessed on Sunday was not the same team Raider fans saw during the preseason. It is one thing to force a quarterback with a noodle arm to beat you by not allowing the deep pass, but to run the exact same coverage well over half the game, coupled with not a single blitz is a recipe for disaster. During the preseason we saw Ken Norton Jr dial up very creative blitzes including several overload concepts and delayed blitzes that do not carry additional risk to the pass defense. Why the game plan completely detached from that is anyone’s guess.

The worst part of the game plan was the rigidity of it. There were no audibles and real adjustments. This is a rookie mistake by Ken Norton and I do not anticipate it happening again. With a smart veteran middle linebacker such as Lofton, the Raiders need to allow for defensive calls to be made. Most likely, with the injection of Aldon Smith they simplified things in order to ensure he was on the right page. Although he did not play every snap, a team cannot grant a player the ability to audible for part of the game and then not in others.

Jack Del Rio summed up the biggest issue in the game during his press conference when he said, “that tight end is still running free.” The reason why Tyler Eifert was open consistently has nothing to do with the players. It is 100 percent a scheme issue. The Raiders ran a Cover 3 cloud which means three defensive backs playing deep, four pass rushers, and the remaining players forming a picket line about five yards down field. This play call has two weak points: the flats and the space between the linebackers and defensive backs. The Bengals hit those two weak points on every single Tyler Eifert reception and the Raiders never went to a different coverage scheme.

Raiders fans love to complain about the defensive backs, but DJ Hayden had a solid game holding AJ Green to barely 60 yards and all of those yards came on short receptions. Multiple times DJ was in his back pocket making the window to complete a ball to him very small. In nickel situations DJ also became the slot cornerback. For the most part he did a fine job, but of course he did give up the touchdown while covering Tyler Eifert in the slot.

That was a mismatch from the beginning, but the Raiders are showing an immense amount of faith in DJ putting him in all sorts of positions he is not familiar with. This is a very good sign for Raiders fans because with this experience he is going to be able to grow and potentially become a solid cornerback. His first three years are very similar to Raven cornerback Jimmy Smith who eventually became a very competent starter.

Another favorite scape goat for Raiders fans is Ray Ray Armstrong. There were several plays in the game where Ray Ray was held and was not able to make the play, but the only real mistake he made was not holding up Hill for his first touchdown. By diving at Hill rather than grabbing him to allow the calvary to arrive, he gave him yards of open space to force Heeney into taking a poor pursuit angle. In time, the Raiders will most likely make a change at the strong side linebacker position and put Mack there once Aldon Smith is caught up to the scheme at weak side pass rusher.

Next: Week 2 Primer: Beating the Ravens