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Raiders 2015 Quarter Season Report: Five things we learned about the Defense

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At the quarter mark of the 2015 season, we take a look at what we've learned about the Raiders defense.

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DEFENSE

Rank: 31st in yards per game (403.8), 26th in points per game (27). 31st against the pass (310.5 ypg), 11th against the run (93.2 ypg).

So, what have we learned so far?

1. The linebackers are not the strength they were cracked up to be

Remember how heading into the draft, linebacker was the one position on the defense that seemed solid? That feels downright silly now. What happened since then was Khalil Mack moved to defensive end, Sio Moore was traded away in favor of starting Ray Ray Armstrong, and Curtis Lofton has been a travesty.

What we're left with is a decent Malcolm Smith trying to do everything himself. Ray Ray proved to be....well, Ray Ray, and was benched in favor of inserting newly signed Aldon Smith into the lineup. That certainly improved the pass rush, but that's about it.

As for Lofton, the guy who led all linebackers last season in missed tackles (22), he is currently tied for sixth most in the league with 7 missed tackles. In coverage, he is downright abysmal. He has given up 16 catches on 16 targets for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was Pro Football Focus' fourth lowest rated inside linebacker last season and thus far he is once again fourth worst.

2. The secondary is a mess with no relief anytime soon

This one we all saw coming. It was the story of the offseason because the Raiders made exactly ONE free agent signing at cornerback - James Dockery - and he didn't make the team out of camp. They also didn't draft a corner until the final seventh round pick. Despite having crazy money under the salary cap, which was still over $20 million come training camp, they made no significant signings. They were putting all their faith in a very young and inexperienced group and the results have been expected.

The best of the group has been last year's seventh round pick, TJ Carrie. But for the past two weeks he hasn't even been playing cornerback. They moved him to safety with the loss of Nate Allen to an MCL injury that landed him on partial season IR. DJ Hayden has been an absolute disaster, regardless of where he was selected in the draft. And Neiko Thorpe has been hot and cold as the team's third corner.

This unit is so bad that when Washington cut David Amerson - who gave up the fourth most catches in the NFL last season (67) - after week two, they claimed him and had him starting as of last week when he was the best cornerback on the field in Silver & Black.

The next time we may be able to expect this group to improve is when Nate Allen returns from partial season IR and that's not until their week 10 game against the Minnesota Vikings on November 15. Then perhaps Carrie can move back to cornerback, and hopefully the team will have found their solution/replacement for DJ Hayden.

3. They can't cover a tight end to save their lives

You usually don't hear about the failing of a specific team against tight ends unless you are getting fantasy advice. But the Raiders are so predictably bad against tight ends, starting the opposing tight end on your fantasy team I a no-brainer. In the first three weeks, opposing tight ends have each put up career numbers. Last week Bears tight end Martellus Bennett had 11 catches which was one catch off of his career high.

The reasons for this have to do with the two areas covered above. The linebackers can't cover and the safeties are too busy helping out with the corners to give the tight ends proper attention. They therefore become that forgotten player that falls through the cracks.

4. Charles Woodson is not human

Happy Birthday to Charles Woodson. He just turned 39 years old today. Though, if you watch him play, you'd never know it. Dude dislocates his shoulder on the final play of the season opener and comes back the next week to miss just one snap. The week after that, he has the game-sealing interception. The week after that, he has another huge interception.

The first interception made him just the second player ever to have at least one interception in 18 straight seasons. That last interception put him tied for 9th on the all-time NFL list. Three more interceptions and he will move into the top five all-time. And there's every reason to believe he will do it.

He leads the team in interceptions, and is currently second in passes defended (4) and tackles (23). Last season was thought to be his last. He said he would wait to see how he felt in the offseason. No one asks anymore. Until he says for sure that he is done, we will just assume he is never going to retire.

Next week he faces Peyton Manning who is the only other player left in the NFL from the 1998 draft. He is also the guy who stood by to watch Woodson hoist the Heisman Trophy as the only ever primarily defensive player to win the award. After four games this season, I am now officially convinced, he is not of human kind.

5. After a slow start, defensive line has come around

Piece by piece, the Raiders have managed to put together a very good defensive line. One that has improved each week as well. The big additions to the unit were free agent signing Dan Williams - who has been a space eater in the middle - and Aldon Smith - who joined the team two days before the season opener and as of last week seemed to have fully acclimated to the team.

Add in moving Khalil Mack almost exclusively to defensive end along with returning starters Justin Tuck and Justin Ellis and you have a pretty nice looking group.

It didn't start out that way. After two games, they were one of just two teams in the NFL without a sack. They also were worst in the league with the most yards given up per game (889) and the defensive line was a major reason why.

When they finally got their first sack, they got them in bunches. They had five sacks and 10 hurries in week three and another three sacks and 12 hurries last week. They also gave up over 100 yards rushing in each of the first two weeks and haven't since, averaging 68.5 yards per game.

Also see:

3 things we learned about the Special Teams

Raiders Quarter Season Report: Overview