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Jack Del Rio takes struggling defense out of hands of Ken Norton, Ben Heeney late in Raiders loss to Falcons

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When the brain of your defense on and off the field is not function at a high level,

Week two brought another defensive no-show for the Raiders. And it left the Raiders head coach searching for answers. And so, midway through the fourth quarter, with the Raiders down 28-21, Del Rio made a couple changes.

At middle linebacker Ben Heeney was replaced by rookie Cory James. And Del Rio, a former defensive coordinator, stepped in to take over some play calling duties as well.

“There might have been a point where I jumped in on the last drive.” Said Del Rio following the game.

Del Rio wouldn’t place the blame directly on Heeney for the struggles of the defense. He wouldn’t say directly that Heeney was benched for performance reasons as he did with Sean Smith last week. But it was pretty obvious Heeney was struggling out there, and Del Rio said the issues were more mental than physical, which would signal a change in the calls from the sideline and those being made on the field.

“We have to make sure we’re teaching it better and make sure our guys understand what we’re asking them to do,” said Del Rio. “Physically there are some situations there as well. The bottom line is it’s nowhere near the standard that I expect us to play at. We’ll need to get it rectified. There’s no dancing around the subject. It’s not what it needs to be.”

The defense gave up over 500 yards in this game (535) a week after giving up over 500 yards to Drew Brees and the Saints. They also gave up 35 points this week after giving up 34 points in the opener. When that happens, no one’s role should be safe.

Del Rio would not comment on whether he will take a more active role in play calling from here on out, saying simply that “those types of things or discussions are not really part of this wrap-up right now today.”