Oakland Raiders Week 8 Primer: Jets Come Crashing In

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Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Aldon Smith (99) rushes as San Diego Chargers tackle King Dunlap (77) blocks during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Amorphous Defense

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this team has been the consistently changing defense. Whether it is a complete scheme change or the addition of wrinkles to match up to an offense week to week, the only constant is change, but in a good way.

Going into this game the plan was clear, the Raiders had to pressure Rivers. The only problem is the Charger offense is mostly built upon passes that barely travel five yards. That was done to nullify the very poor pass blockers across the offensive line.

Knowing there was a significant chance the Raider pass rushers would not be able to get to Rivers, Ken Norton Jr made a couple of strategic decisions to focus on the back end of the pass defense. The first change he made was to use Khalil Mack in coverage on running backs out of the backfield. He covered backs in both man and zone coverage. The goal here was to funnel the throws from Philip Rivers to areas the defense wanted and could rally up and make a play.

This may seem like an inconsequential outcome, but what is important to note, is this is another way for a defense to dictate to an offense the outcome of plays as opposed to having the offense in control. Having the expectation for a defense to completely shut down an offense such as the Chargers’ is a little extreme, but the Raiders came into this game not only with a reasonable expectation on defense.

What was the biggest change for this defense was the fact the young defensive backs were able to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. The first interception was a matter of amazing timing and great hand use. What made this play happen was the fact that Woodhead was moved back into shotgun next to Rivers.

By doing so, Malcolm Smith who was in coverage against him, was reading him the whole way. When it was clear Woodhead was staying in the backfield, Smith began to spy Rivers. It put him in perfect position to snag the interception.

The second interception while not as intricate is no less impressive. On that play the Raiders got significant pressure and took Rivers off his spot. This caused Rivers to throw off his back foot and the delivery of the pass was off target.

DJ Hayden on this play was in man coverage and was focused on the receiver. The moment he saw the receiver’s hands go up he pounced and made a miraculous change of body position to grab the off-target pass.

For the bulk of this game the Raiders ran a man defense with a single safety over the top. Ken Norton utilized a five man front for the majority of the game, but trickled in four-man lines as well. Rookie linebacker Neiron Ball again proved he is an exceptional coverage linebacker against tight ends until he injured his knee in the late first half. What happened late in the game is attributable to the fact the Raiders took their foot off the pedal and went full prevent.

Next: Week 8 Primer: The Big Complaint