Oakland Raiders Post-Bye Notebook: Looking ahead

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Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack (52) forces a fumble by Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) in a NFL game at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Browns 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. Don’t Go Backwards Defensively

While the Raiders struggled defensively early, and won the Baltimore game in large part in spite of atrocious defense for all but the last few moments of that game, the Raiders have actually played solid football defensively during the 1-2 stretch of the past three games. After giving up 66 points and allowing 889 total yards in the first two games – including 236 yards on the ground – the Raiders defense tightened up a bit, giving up 58 combined points and 1,023 total yards over the last three. The Raiders defense also managed to rack up 10 sacks in those three games after being goose egged in the sack column in both of the first two.

The Raiders of course didn’t have perfect defensive efforts: only once have the Raiders successfully contained a tight end, and that was against Denver, where the primary tight end is 33-year-old Owen Daniels. They may not be able to contain Antonio Gates next Sunday. The Raiders still gave up a ton of passing yards to Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, and the secondary has major holes and issues.

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  • But Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio appear to have turned the corner on some of the defensive struggles that this team wasn’t supposed to have. The Raiders are using the blitz and getting after the passer, and while a season-ending injury to Justin Tuck may be a setback, Khalil Mack, Aldon Smith and Malcolm Smith should be able to keep it going. The Raiders are stopping the run now. The Raider secondary may be getting gashed for big gains, but as a team the Raiders haven’t given up a ton of touchdowns over the past three games: the Browns, Bears and Broncos combined for four offensive touchdowns, all through the air.

    The Raiders weakness, of course, plays right into the hands of the strength of their next opponent, but after facing Philip Rivers and his untiring arm, the Raiders play a bunch of teams that want to run the ball on you a lot and have mediocre quarterback situations.

    The Raiders just need to get guys healthy, especially with Justin Tuck gone and Nate Allen not expected back for a few more weeks, but this defense can still get stops, limit opponents to field goals instead of touchdowns. If the Raiders can combine an offensive performance like weeks two and three with a defensive performance like last week, there’s no reason they can’t win any game left on their plate.

    Next: Post Bye Notebook: In Need of a Punt Returner