There are so many factors that contribute to winning in the NFL. One of the most important is getting off the field on third down. In 2013, the Oakland Raiders defense was unable to show the consistency to get off the field on third down and it crushed their chances to improve on their 4-12 record.
“We definitely wore down on defense,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said at his season wrap-up press sit down. “I thought we played hard. That never faltered. Sometimes when you have players, they have good games and bad games. Third down hurt us on defense, I felt, especially throughout the latter part of the season. We’ve got to figure out a way to get off the field.”
The Raiders were near the bottom of the NFL in getting off the field on third down, allowing opposing offenses to convert on more than 43 percent of their tries. Oakland's defense gave up 91 of 211 third down conversions. Whether it was the run, pass, or penalty, the Raiders need a massive improvement. On the season, the Raiders allowed 100 rushing first downs and 202 passing first downs. During their six game losing streak to end the year, they allowed five of those teams to convert more than 50 percent of their third downs.
The stats indicate opposing teams relying on the pass to beat the Raiders when necessary and that makes sense because Oakland's defense was near the bottom of the NFL allowing 255.8 yards per game through the air. The team had an entirely new secondary in 2013 which could speak to those problems. The defense as a whole was rebuilt with only defensive end Lamarr Houston back from the previous year. Strong safety Tyvon Branch missed almost the entire season with a leg injury.
Continuity will be a factor in 2014 for the Raiders to improve their third down defense. The team finally has some salary cap space and a significant compliment of picks in the 2014 NFL Draft to address these deficiencies and add much needed talent. In 2014, the Raiders will return all three linebackers in Sio Moore, Nick Roach, and Kevin Burnett which is huge. They will also be able to find help via free agency. McKenzie knows this is an area that must be fixed.
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