Oakland Raiders struggling with Curtis Lofton’s coverage problems


In 2015 Free Agency the Oakland Raiders were forced to replace their middle linebacker after Nick Roach retired due to concussion issues, signing Curtis Lofton in a move that was seen as a risky stopgap acquisition based on Lofton’s low PFF grade in his final season with the New Orleans Saints. Lofton ranking amongst the worst in the league at middle linebacker despite having a high number of tackles in 2014.

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So far in 2015 those concerns have been proven as legitimate as despite being a consistent tackler, Lofton has continued to struggle at pretty much everything else for the Raiders through the first month of his season. In fact, opposing quarterbacks are picking on the Oakland starting linebacker at will to great success as a major factor as to why the Raiders are struggling in pass coverage.

When targeted in pass coverage, Raiders opponents are completing at a 100% success rate against Lofton. Going 16-16 for two touchdowns against the player that was signed to bring consistent leadership at the position and an improvement over the woeful Miles Burris with Nick Roach hanging up his shoulder pads. With numbers like that Lofton is only appearing to be a minor improvement over the younger Burris early in his Raiders career.

Last year, Curtis Lofton was better against the pass than the run per PFF as he had a -4.3 grade for the season and a -12.2 grade against the run with the Saints. Through four games those numbers have flipped as Lofton is one of the worst linebackers in the league with a -6.6 coverage grade and a much more respectable -1.2 grade against the run. Still, those horrible numbers in stopping the pass when targeted are playing directly into the Raiders problems in stopping opposing quarterbacks and should lead to serious questions as to how often Lofton should be on the field on passing downs going forward this season.

Lofton is still an upgrade over Burris, who was one of the worst middle linebackers of all time in 2014 in a tough spot replacing Nick Roach, but with the young 2015 draft pick in Ben Heeney on the bench the Raiders may need to start evaluating if it is time to see if the more athletic rookie can give the team a bit more in terms of versatility if Lofton continues to be unable to avoid being a liability in coverage. Allowing quarterbacks to complete every pass thrown your way is simply unacceptable and if the trend doesn’t change Lofton’s stay in Oakland could be shorter than expected.

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