The Oakland Raiders' first team defense has been gashed in the last two preseason games. First, quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense marched drive after drive to the tune of 23 point before half. Last Friday, the Chicago Bears did the same, moving at will against the defense for 27 first half points.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the first team defense. “We have to play better. When you look at the run game, the thing we haven’t done, and it’s really been a problem this preseason, is we have to keep the ball contained. We have to set edges in the defense, we have to make the ball run up inside. I don’t think that anything happened in that game that was a physical deal where we just got knocked around. I think what it all boils down to at the end of the day is we have to get 11 guys to do their job and do their job on every play. We have to get 11 guys that fly around to the football and that’s going to be a point of emphasis this week.”
Now, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen are not showing anything in terms of defensive schemes. The concern for the Raiders is the visible lack of energy, hustle, and fundamentals. The tackling has been terrible and the energy level has been zero. The Bears scored on the first four drives against the defense and the Saints scored on their first five drives.
The Raiders have battled a plethora of injuries on the first team. Defensive tackles Pat Sims has yet to play. Vance Walker has seen limited practice and only a few series in the preseason game against the Bears. Defensive end Lamaar Houston was out along with safety Tyvon Branch, cornerback Tracy Porter, and linebacker Kaluka Maiava. Safety Charles Woodson looks like he is just going throw the motions and for a 15 year veteran in preseason, it's understandable. The only concern is whether he is favoring the broken collarbone he suffered last season.
At the cornerback position, Mike Jenkins was having a nice preseason, until the Bears picked on him early and often. Rookie cornerback and first round draft pick DJ Hayden came out healthy from his first game of the season which is most important. He showed some rust, but did make a nice pass break-up that landed right in the hands of defensive end Jason Hunter, who dropped it. Linebacker Kevin Burnett missed a crucial tackle on the Matt Forte 32 yard touchdown run. The pass rush has been an absolute non-factor.
The Raiders rebuilt this defense in the offseason. With the injuries, it has taken longer for them to gel and build chemistry. The second team defense has found the right formula and it's paying dividends on the field. Until the first team wakes up and brings the energy and effort, it will be a long season. The Raiders and their head coach pride themselves on defense. Last season was a disgrace on that side of the ball. This season must be a giant improvement.
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