Raiders stepping up in run defense

Doug Pensinger

The Raiders are among the best run defenses in the NFL this season. Yes, you read that right.

When was the last time anyone could claim the Raiders had a good run defense? I can't recall exactly when that might have been. In recent years, run defense has been the Raiders one constantly glaring week area. Until now.

Over the first six games of this season, the Raiders have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. They are currently ranked ninth in the league (5th in AFC) with an impressive 3.8 yards per carry allowed. In addition, they have not allowed a gain of 20 plus yards all season. No other team can make that claim. All but four teams in the NFL have allowed multiple runs of over 20 yards.

They have improved upon those number over the past three games and are sixth in the league in rushing yards per game (89.7) over that span, facing the Redskins, Chargers, and Chiefs. That's 3.4 yards per carry.

Since the team returned to Oakland in 1995, the defense has held the opposition under two yards per carry 11 times - two of those times came this season. In both wins this season, the Raiders held their opponent to below two yards per carry. The Jaguars could only muster up 1.8 yards per carry on the ground and the Chargers were stuck at 1.9 yards per carry.

They have accomplished this feat with an almost completely revamped defensive line and linebacking corps. Gone are stalwarts Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly - replaced by newcomers Vance Walker and Pat Sims - and run stopping liability Rolando McClain is gone in favor of Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett who are one and two on the team in tackles.

The only returning starter in the group is defensive end Lamarr Houston whose 20 solo tackles this season are the best in the NFL among 4-3 defensive linemen.

Also gone is the suspect tackling and poor angles of Michael Huff and here is the All Pro and former Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson.

Great run stopping requires great discipline which is something defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, has helped bring to this team. The defense is buying into his schemes and playing at a level which has not been seen in a great long while.

This week the Raiders play the Steelers who have one of the worst run offenses in the league (27th). So, their dominance in run defense should continue.

Still feels weird saying that.

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