Getting Defensive: Two Issues Plaguing Oakland

Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack
Nov 5, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) reaches for Miami Dolphins tight end Julius Thomas (89) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the first nine games of 2017, the Oakland Raiders defense showed occasional signs of life. Yet, there will always remain areas of needed improvement and holes inside the construct of Ken Norton’s scheme. While gaps occur inside any defense, Norton and his players struggle with both aspects that are the coordinator’s issue and others that remain the fault of the specific player.


Hits over Sure Tackles

If the Miami game taught us anything, it was that too often the Raiders defense will attempt to lay out opposing ballcarriers. While some defenders possess this ability (Mack, Irvin, Joseph), not everyone needs to attempt wiping an opponent out. What happened to the sure wrap tackle? Although it’s not particularly entertaining or exciting, it stops a play.

Reggie Nelson seemingly commits this error on a weekly basis. Sunday night, Dolphins would spin and routinely bounce off his attempts to jar the ball loose. As a result, the Dolphins gained extra yardage, putting the Raiders in worse positions to make plays. Plus, what will it ultimately accomplish? If Nelson continues to seek out contact, only to fail miserably, why is he starting? At this point, with rookie Obi Melifonwu seeing the field, the time to transition Nelson out is now. He’s often late to the play, throwing an ill-timed shot that seemingly has no effect.

However, Karl Joseph, for all of his hitting ability needs to also realize that sometimes a simple tackle is as productive as flattening an opponent. Granted, Joseph’s relatively small stature combined with his speed can jar the ball loose. Yet, there is a time and place. Sunday night, the referees flagged him for hitting a Miami player out of bounds. He needed to deliver one more to a player clearly on the sideline. In return, Joseph gave the Dolphins fifteen free yards.



Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack, at times, appears completely by himself while rushing the passes. Under those conditions, it makes many wonder where the rest of the pressure is. Mario Edwards flashes outstanding potential, but gets washed out of the play or cannot shake a block. If you have to blitz Irvin regularly, that vacates a spot on the field. The interior of the line continues to not show up on any level. When they do, celebrations ensue. For instance, rookie Eddie Vanderdoes makes a stop at the line of scrimmage Sunday night; he jumps to his feet and wags his finger? Why? Nine games in and the defensive tackle made little to no impact on the overall defense and the rookie wants to showboat?

Unfortunately, with the season more than halfway over, this roster is it, for now. Given that fact, Ken Norton needs to either move Mack around or let John Pagano jump at the whiteboard and scheme ways of applying pressure. Jay Cutler operated under little duress Sunday night.


Generally speaking, the Oakland Raiders defense is inconsistent. They muster stops at incredible times while surrendering chunk yardage during others. General Manager Reggie McKenzie cannot execute any personnel moves this late in the season. Yet, Ken Norton, more importantly, John Pagano needs to devise ways to improve the defense using the current roster talent.

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