The Raiders defense came out strong for the 2013 season and its clear that their plans include bringing pressure from anywhere they can. It was pretty exciting to see Oakland willing to send any position on a blitz and its something that will keep their opponents guessing on who is coming. They also have a nice player rotation going to keep their players fresh which will help out later into games when people start to wear down.
"I think what happens when you have good players, good football players, you want to find ways to utilize them and get those guys on the field." head coach Dennis Allen told the media on Thursday, "So we're going to play as many guys as we can play, number one, because the more guys you're able to play, the more they're into the game, the more excitement they've got about coming to the game on Sunday. That's one of the things we want to do and then you have to be able to keep guys fresh so that in the fourth quarter, in the critical situations, you got guys out there that are fresh and able to play and play fast."
The players definitely looked like they had some more energy than we have seen in the past. The production showed up too with an impressive opening game output of 4 sacks against the Colts. The Raiders defense was bringing pressure from all over as part of their defensive scheme and it isn't something that is going away any time soon.
"I think part of what we try to do defensively is to try to be multiple, try to be as simple as we can on ourselves, but give some different looks, bring some different people, make them have to account for everybody. That's one of the things we try to do and I think the more you can show different looks, but yet, not be too complicated where you're changing up your scheme week in and week out, I think that's the thing and that's what's critical. And really, we'll do as much as our guys can handle. If you we're able to handle those things and be able to execute those things, then I think that works to our advantage."
They didn't execute it perfectly but we are starting to see this scheme develop. The Raiders have a stronger roster this year and its allowing them to try more things with their defense which will only help them on the field. As the players get more comfortable they will get more responsibilities and more chances to make plays. Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver definitely sounds excited about the benefits of opening up the defense and using all of his players to create pressure.
"Well it does (benefit the Raiders) because everybody is a threat. Now when everybody's a threat, even the more simple calls, where all of a sudden somebody leans in, they start pointing because that guy came coming, that guy can be activated. That's exactly what we want to create. We bring guys from everywhere, you don't know where we're going to bring them; we do. And when we get activated, we have to win."
The Raiders did create the pressure but they didn't always make the play when they were there. That's what Jason means by after being activated they have to win. They have to win their battle and bust up the play, it doesn't help to get in there if you can't finish off afterwards. Finishing is something this team will have to get better at, they have to make the big plays when they are there.
"We missed that guy (Andrew Luck) a few times, sometimes when he was dead in our sights, and that's his strength." Tarver continued, "Our correction is, when you get that opportunity, make the big play. You don't want to be the guy that has a lot of missed opportunities for big plays, because you don't know when the next play is going to come. It could be play 20, it might be play one where we need to knock somebody back. It might be the biggest play of the game."
The Raiders played well in their opener but it obviously wasn't all roses. After all, they did give up a game winning 80 yard drive. However, that is something that a lot of teams have in common in the wake of Andrew Luck since he already has 5 fourth quarter comebacks and 8 game winning drives in his young career. Luck's impressive ability to close out games had not gone unnoticed by Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
"You had to say the 80 yards part, huh? A couple things there; the very thing we watched as a defense was that drive because most games in the NFL come down to that. When I say most it's probably about half, I don't know the correct stat, D.A. probably knows. You have to be great in those situations. That's how the great quarterbacks win games, that's how Indy made it to the playoffs last year, is that team went down the field and scored at the end of games. That's when you need to be at your best."
Giving up a big drive at the end of a well played game is a tough pill to swallow but the only thing you can do now is turn it into a teaching moment. You have to take this moment and freeze it in time. You tell your players to remember exactly how they felt after this game and then use that memory to do whatever you have to do to not feel this way again. The teaching moment is something else that hasn't been lost on Tarver.
"There were some things in that drive that you don't want to learn from in that category, but once they're done, there's no better teaching than that because that is the ultimate moment. You have to perform. You have to do your job in that moment. Everybody wants to make a play but that doesn't mean they're going to let you. You have to understand how you fit in the pieces in that moment. There's three third-down conversions in that drive, and those are the three biggest plays in that game because when we do what we're supposed to do on third down, we usually at least hit him or sacked him. There are opportunities in that drive that we missed, but I'll tell you the good part about it. Every one of those guys learned from it and every one of them is excited about fixing that stuff right now. With 15 left, let's go."
Raider Nation is excited about what this defense showed last Sunday and it looks like the they have a lot of room to grow. They held a great passer to under 200 yards passing and they got 4 sacks on him too. The best part is that was all without rookie LB Sio Moore playing very much and he appears ready to start against Jacksonville. Hopefully getting Sio up to full strength will get this team to play even better as the season moves forward.