Why the Raiders Pass Defense Is Better Than You Think
Elias Trejo – Nov 3, 2015
It's no secret that the Oakland Raiders secondary has been torched a few games this year and that fans think this is the weakest unit on defense. They give up 302.1 yards per game which is the second worst in the NFL. They have given up the 8th most passing plays of more than 20 yards in the league. Starting cornerback, DJ Hayden, is still a polarizing figure among the Raider Nation as his abilities have been questioned and he is Reggie McKenzie's only first round pick that hasn't delivered.
However, the further you dig in the Raiders secondary and their numbers the more you start to see that they are improving and their numbers may not be as bad as they seem. In a time where stats, analytics and fantasy football reign supreme, sometimes we don't focus on how these numbers translate on the field and why they are what they are. Looking closely at the Raiders numbers against the pass, you start to see that they aren't as bad as they seem and here is why.
Only the New York Giants have defended more pass attempts (332) this year than the Raiders (311). Two teams have allowed more pass completions than Oakland (204) and they are the Giants (227) and Steelers (206). At first thought most people will assume that people pass on the Raiders because it works so well, but that's not the main reason. Teams are having a hard time running on the Raiders. Oakland has allowed the 2nd fewest yards per game this year at 82.9 yards per game, while the Giants have allowed 112 yards per game and the Steelers 97 yards per game.
The Raiders are also averaging 25.4 points per game right now which is the 8th best in the league. They are forcing teams to keep up with their explosive offense and they can't do that by running. While the total yards per game may be high, the Raiders are only allowing 7 yards per pass attempt right now which is actually 10th best in the league. They are also creating turnovers as only six teams have more interceptions than the Raiders and Charles Woodson leads the league in interceptions.
The Raiders are allowing quarterbacks to have a 89.3 passer rating which is actually the 14th best in the league and 7.6 points lower than they were allowing last year. Oakland is actually allowing more pass yards this year than they did last year, but that is because teams were able to run late on us because we were always losing. That's not the case this year as teams are losing to us or need to pass late in games to beat us.
That 89.3 passer rating would fit right above Jay Cutler's passer rating and just under Alex Smith's passer rating so that's the type of success that opposing quarterbacks are having on the Raiders. For the first time in forever, (Yes, that's a Frozen reference), the Raiders have a positive point differential and a positive turnover differential and the secondary has a lot to do with it. Now, they do get help from a fierce front seven but this secondary is holding it's own despite having to make changes after Nate Allen was hurt.
Starting cornerback, TJ Carrie, was moved to safety and David Amerson, who was signed in late September is starting. Nate Allen will be able to come back in Week 10 of the NFL season and everyone will be back in their normal spots. The Raiders will have three cornerbacks who might be coming on strong as the season continues and the front seven begins to gel better.
Remember, this is a front seven who hasn't started together until last week against the Jets and they dominated. Aldon Smith didn't join the team until a couple of days before the season. Justin Ellis and Curtis Lofton missed time because of injuries, and Mario Edwards wasn't starting until Justin Tuck went down. This secondary is only going to get better despite their current performance and what the numbers say about them.
Don't be surprised if you start seeing this defensive unit matching the success of their offense. They have the pieces to do it and they've been doing it over the last two weeks. Expect the Raiders playoff drought to end this season and their defense will have a lot to do with it.
For more of my articles and opinions follow me on Twitter: @Elias_Trejo
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