Oakland Raiders have improved in 2015, but still climbing

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October 11, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) runs with the ball against Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Neiron Ball (58) during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Neiron Ball

The biggest factor in the Raiders ability to stop the tight end last Sunday was rookie linebacker Neiron Ball and with the tight end problem, he helped fix the third down problem as he comes in on the nickel defense to strengthen the team’s pass coverage. Ball, a 5th-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft is a good athlete that ran a 4.6 40 just five months after having the vaunted microfracture surgery on his knee.

That tells you he is a fast man that can run in at least the high 4.4s when he’s at 100 percent. On Sunday, he used that athleticism to help shut Broncos tight end Owen Daniels out and tackle in space to get off the field on third down. He’s been killing it on special teams already, making tackles on some of the quickest men in the NFL.

This move will lead to consistency on third down, especially since Lofton isn’t there to miss a tackle in space on passes short of the marker. As much of a thumper as Lofton is in the run game, he doesn’t belong on the field on passing downs. Kudos to Del Rio and Norton for giving Lofton a chance to get it right for a few games but not waiting until the season was lost to bring Ball in as the best fit on passing downs at linebacker.

Next: Secondary showing promise