Offensively, the Oakland Raiders face a real test for Sunday Night Football this week. Washington has allowed the seventh most yards and eighth most points per game this season.
However, Washington’s defense is much more talented than they’ve shown the past two weeks. This group has a mixture of talented young and veteran players under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
Manusky is a very experienced coordinator who should get this group playing better at home versus the Raiders. Here is what Oakland should expect versus Manusky’s defensive unit.
Manusky has 29 years of experience as a player or coach but he is in his first year as defensive coordinator with Washington. He’s been linebackers coach for Washington (LBS coach in 2001 and OLBs coach in 2016) and the Chargers. He’s held defensive coordinator titles with the San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.
As outside linebacker coach last year, Manusky is credited for Trent Murphy’s breakout season last year and Ryan Kerrigan’s Pro Bowl year in 2016. Manusky has worked with Pro Bowlers D’Qwell Jackson, Vontae Davis, Mike Adams, Robert Mathis, Eric Weddle, Shawn Merriman, Junior Seau, Donnie Edwards, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Lavar Arrington during his coaching career. Manusky played 12 years in the NFL as a linebacker and special teamer. He played with Washington, Minnesota and Kansas City before retiring in 2000.
This will be the Raiders third consecutive 3-4 base defense. Again, Oakland will see a ton of zone blitzes and stand up rushers. The offensive line will need to communicate and push up to backers which they fared well at the past two weeks.
Last week, the Raiders faced a tough defensive line and the week before they faced a talented group of edge rushers. This week, Washington will give the Raiders their best crop of edge rushers that they’ve seen. Preston Smith and Kerrigan can set the edge and rush the passer. Rookie Ryan Anderson made a name for himself as a situational rusher at Alabama so Washington will hope he can do that for them too. Otherwise, reserve edge Junior Galette made a name for himself rushing the passer. As the former outside linebacker coach, expect Manusky to rely on these four guys to rush the passer a ton.
Otherwise, Mason Foster and Zach Brown could be the best middle linebacker duo in the league. They haven’t played up to that bill as they both are graded in the 60s’ by Pro Football Focus but that could change with a big performance this week.
Additionally, Washington has a solid secondary and defensive line. Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee are solid veterans. Jonathan Allen was a highly drafted rookie. Josh Norman is a former Pro Bowl corner while Kyle Fuller and Bashaud Breeland were highly coveted out of college too. Overall, Washington has the talent to execute Manusky’s schemes.
Washington’s biggest defensive liabilities are their safeties. Neither starter is graded higher than a 40 overall from Pro Football Focus. This means the Raiders slot receivers, tight ends and running backs should find gaps in the zone coverage. It also means they must win one-on-one matchups versus these below average safeties.
Regardless, Washington would be smart to cover up their safety weaknesses by shifting coverages and disguising blitzes. Washington’s best shot to stop the Raiders is by creating pressure. If the Raiders can protect the quarterback like they’re capable, Oakland should expose Washington like they were exposed in Weeks One and Two.
Moreover, the Raiders offensive gameplan is not going to change much. This group is going to continue to run the ball and hard and take their shots deep. As long as the Silver and Black execute, there is not a defensive coordinator or scheme that will stop them. Sorry, Manusky.