We take a look back at the Raiders defense over the first four games of this season with a bit about the special teams as well.
Rank: 20th in yards per game (365), 23rd in points (103)
We know the Raiders can't run the ball. But how do they do stopping it? Just as bad. Second worst in the league. They give up 158.2 yards per game including giving up 200 yards per game over the first two weeks of the season to the Jets and Texans. They've also given up the second longest touchdown run of any team this season when in the opener against the Jets, Chris Ivory burst up the middle for a 71-yard touchdown. It turned out to be the game-clincher.
Let's step away from the ground woes now. The next area the Raiders overhauled was the pass rushers. They signed veterans Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith and drafted outside linebacker, Khalil Mack. Between them the Raiders have one sack. One. Justin Tuck got in to keep up his tradition of sacking Tom Brady in week three in New England. None of the others have a sack to their credit yet this season. Overall, the Raiders have just four sacks on the season. Only three teams in the NFL have fewer sacks than the Raiders - Arizona (3.0), Falcons (3.0), Rams (1.0).
It hasn't been all bad from the pass rushers. Though they have just the one sack, they have gotten some pressure. Antonio Smith leads the team in quarterback hurries (9) which puts him third among 4-3 defensive tackles and 12th among all defensive linemen. He simply hasn't been able to finish the job.
Khalil Mack is the highest rated defender on the Raiders thus far. Pro Football Focus has him as their second highest rated outside linebacker in the NFL. Though he has yet to register a sack, he is the highest rated run defending outside linebacker in the NFL. The Raiders deploy him much like a 3-4 outside linebacker which is where PFF puts him. Among 3-4 OLB he has the second most stops and is tied for the most combined tackles.
The linebackers as a whole were supposed to be the deepest unit on the team. That didn't last long. The team cut Kevin Burnett before training camp and despite a very good preseason, released his brother Kaelin as well. Middle linebacker Nick Roach suffered a concussion in the third preseason game and has been replaced by Miles Burris who has been the biggest liability on this defense thus far this season. Then Sio Moore went out with in injured ankle in week two and was replaced by Kaluka Maiava. Then, of course, Maiava went out early in the game last week with a hamstring injury and was replaced with the only remaining healthy linebacker on the roster -- recently called up undrafted rookie practice squad player Bojay Filimoeatu. So much for all that depth.
The final area of the defense is the defensive backs. The two new corners in Oakland were starters for the 49ers last season - Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Neither of them have logged their first interception for their new team. Rogers is the only one to even have a pass defended - which he got last week against the Dolphins.
As a team, the Raiders have two interceptions. Charles Woodson had one in the opener against the Jets and T.J. Carrie had one last week off a tipped pass. Woodson leads the team with three passes defended. Even at 37-years-old, he is easily the best defender in the Raiders' secondary. He is the only one making plays in coverage and he comes up in run support as well. Tyvon Branch was playing decent until he was lost for the season to a foot injury.
As a team, the Raiders are fourth in the league in fewest yards given up through the air. But that stat is misleading. It is much like the 2006 season in which teams would just get a healthy lead and then run out the clock. The only game this season that was a real competition was week three against the Patriots. All other games, the Raiders were dominated. Even the five-point loss to the Jets was never really in doubt.
Sebastian Janikowski has not attempted a field goal in three of the four games this season. He kicked three field goals in New England week three and that's it. That was also all the scoring the Raiders did in that game. Otherwise the Raiders all-time leading scorer has kicked six extra points and ten kickoffs.
Marquette King was downright awful in the first couple games. His directional punting was as bad as it has ever been and downing punts inside the 20-yard line just wasn't happening. Over the past two weeks, he has turned it around, with 7 of his 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Nothing much to talk about good or bad in the return game.