In an instant, some perception can change. For Jack Del Rio, that occurred over the course of five weeks. Honestly, RaiderNation awaits the return of the free-wheeling, risk taking coach that injected enthusiasm and confidence into a moribund franchise. Now, that coach is somewhere else. Del Rio does not appear to be the same since last year. His approach and sideline demeanor paint a picture of rigid conservatism.
Before landing in Oakland, Del Rio was the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator. With that said, he can correctly institute a gameplan. Yet, the current version of Oakland appears a step slow, technically unsound, passive and lethargic. Is that on the players or Del Rio? First, Del Rio maintains say as to personnel. Under those circumstances, blame should fall into Del Rio’s lap. How else do you explain the Ravens forgoing the pass and running the ball late? The Raiders knew what would happen, yet could not stop them.
Aside from Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards, the defensive line continues to struggle. No interior push exists. Jihad Ward cannot find the field. When he does, offenses wash him out of the play, rendering him useless in clutch situations. How else can you explain eight sacks from the line, if you include Bruce Irvin rushing?
Granted, for a stretch Ken Norton’s defense played well enough to win two of these three games. Yet, they did not. Moral victories should never count in professional football. Sooner, preferably not later, Norton needs to be held accountable for the failures of the defense. As mentioned, the paltry sack numbers do nothing to help the back seven. However, the play of most everyone that does not have a hand in the dirt needs intense criticism. The linebackers often appear slow to the plan. Whenever they do arrive, the ball carrier gained extra yardage anyway.
In addition, the secondary cannot stop anyone at al. From Jermaine Kearse to Josh Doctson to Mike Wallace, coverage lapses cripple the Raiders’ chances from winning. Corner play remains abysmal. Karl Joseph appears to be the only playmaker back then. When healthy, Gareon Conley shows flashes but health remains an issue for him. A unit that managed zero interceptions in five games is not one worth keeping intact.
With John Pagano employed on the same staff, the time is now to begin the transition to him as the leader of the defense. Norton can fire up troops, but the unit needs Xs and Os, not fiery speeches. Pagano can provide a blueprint for success. Either make the switch or live with the consequences.
Critics question is Del Rio’s gambling persona was the persona of someone seeking an extension. During Sunday’s game, the Raiders in Ravens territory on fourth and three. They punted. A year ago, Del Rio goes for it. Those situations fuel that speculation. Smarter, more aggressive coaching could help cure what ails this franchise.
In reality, Jack Del Rio can coach. Moreover, fixes exists on things he can control. Whether he choose to stay the course or radically alter a few things remains to be seen. The clock continues to tick.
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