Currently, the Oakland Raiders sit at 4-6. With just five games remaining, hope gets thinner by the day. Yet, most fans refuse to accurately assess the problems and think of solutions. Some, including within the organization rely on excuses to calm fears and give themselves a justification for poor play. Bottom line, the team continues to struggle weekly. To be honest, the defense is atrocious. Excluding Khalil and Mack and NaVorro Bowman, the defensive unit fails regularly. However, people line up with excuses.
Excuse: Eddie Vanderdoes is still a rookie, acclimating to the NFL. There’s time for him to breakout this season.
Truth: In ten games, the rookie appears winded and overmatched regularly. As a result, he attempts to use strength to bully guards. Most NFL guards meet power with power. So, Vanderdoes’ attempt to bull interior offensive linemen falls flat. He has more starts (10) than tackles (8). Granted, tackles for a defensive tackle can be construed as meaningless. But, film of him generating no upfield burst isn’t. If you can see Vanderdoes’ entire name on his jersey after the snap means guards are manhandling him. Five games left affords him little time to change perception.
Excuse: Sean Smith’s legal trouble affects his play.
Fact: No. Sean Smith played awfully last year. The only positive from Sunday’s game for him is that RaiderNation can retire the clip of Brandin Cooks, as a Saint, torching Smith. Now, there is film of Brandin Cooks, Patriot, doing the exact same thing. Before Smith’s arrest, questions arose about his usefulness on this defense. His stiff running and failure to accelerate makes people miss Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Bluntly put, the quicker Smith gets released, the secondary will automatically improve. He can’t cover receivers, backs, or tight ends vertically. Opponents know this and will find him.
Excuse: Firing Norton and installing Pagano immediately raises defensive play.
Fact: John Pagano is a coordinator, not a miracle worker. His saving grace appears to be the ability to actually scheme a competent defense. Norton motivates, delivers speeches and offers zero adjustments. Be that as it may, look at the roster. The flaw of this roster resides with Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio. Additionally, the coaching choices also rest at their feet. The pass rush consists of one player. Plus, no one tallied a single interception in the first ten games. How do you fix a defense that allowed a 300 yard passer in three of it’s last four games? Or, at least 27 points in five games this season?
While Pagano will improve the defense, six games may not enough time to accurately assess and fix this mess. Nothing sends a clearer sign of surrender than changing coordinators before the end of the year. Yet, here we are.
In essence, the Oakland Raiders have serious defensive issues. Unless someone clones Khalil Mack these problems, with a thin roster will continue.