The Oakland Raiders spent the offseason rebuilding their defense. The result is a collection of players who make up the most talented defense the Raiders have had since defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen arrived. Now, the plan is to find ways to put these new players in the best position to take this defense to the next level.
“We’re very excited to have the caliber of players, both veterans and rookies that we brought in, and in between that we brought into the organization,” Tarver said. “Now it’s our job, and their job, to be committed to what we’re doing and to get trained together, all of us, get trained together so that we can have quick reactions within a game and make a lot of plays. We have more players at each position that can impact the game.”
One of the major addition is linebacker Khalil Mack, who the Raiders selected fifth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Since his arrival, players like Charles Woodson and Donald Penn have raved about his ability. Those sentimental are shared by Tarver, who is excited by his play early in the offseason workouts. Mack gives the Raiders are real pass rushing threat who help the defense in every facet.
“What’s nice about Khalil is he has size and athletic ability, so that he can do some things on the edges of your defense, both in the run game and in the pass game, with his power, his length and his ability to bend and move,” Tarver said of Mack. “Those are traits that you want as many players as you can have on your defense, as many of those as we can get, the happier a coordinator is.”
Tarver is known as a mad scientist defensive coordinator. He likes to bring unusual and aggressive blitz calls. With all the new pieces of the defense, that will not change. Tarver has more options to bring pressure with players like Mack, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Sio Moore on the defense. The Raiders have 38 sacks in 2013 which has accumulated by 15 different players. No player had more than six. The plan for Tarver is still to give players the opportunity to rush the quarterback, but to put them in better position to succeed.
“We will still give everybody a turn in activations, but if our players continue where they’re going right now and we continue to work together on our communication and work together on our understanding of how we fit, both in the run and in the pass game, we feel like we have more guys that when we get them in one-on-one situations, they can win their one-on-ones,” Tarver said. “That’s the players’ job. Our job is to help get them one-on-ones, their job is to win the one-on-ones. We have a few more, and we’re excited to see how that plays out.”
Another area Oakland needs to clean up is their pass defense. The team ranked a miserable 28th in the league last season, allowing 255.8 yards per game through the air. To combat that issue, Oakland brought in cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to pair with DJ Hayden and 2014 fourth-round pick Keith McGill. The Raiders have had different sets of starting cornerbacks to begin each season since Tarver arrived. Now, the hope is Brown and Rogers can bring some stability that will result in an improved pass defense.
“Here’s what those players and some of the other players that we’ve already had here and others that we’re bringing in, getting Tyvon Branch back, Charles Woodson, the corners that you mentioned,” Tarver said of Rogers and Brown. “When you have players that care about being correct, working together and are smart enough to make adjustments, you can change it. That’s what this group is very focused on right now, is changing what’s been going on, one play at a time. You can feel that in those young men and in this group. So, what we need to do is build on that, with our young guys seeing how Carlos, how ‘T’ [Brown] how everybody approaches being a professional. That’s what’s great, they don’t like being wrong, they obviously don’t like when anybody makes a play, but they’re also interested in how to fix it.”
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