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John Pagano making impact on Raiders defense he should have been allowed to make all season

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It’s easy to see now that Jack Del Rio was right to make John Pagano the new defensive coordinator from the impact he’s had over his four games on the job.

NFL: New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of the Raiders making a change at head coach will continue to float around. But even if that were to happen, it would be unlikely to happen anytime soon. Current head coach Jack Del Rio just signed a four-year extension. And owner Mark Davis doesn’t have the kind of money to pay what he would have to pay Del Rio not to coach the team.

So to get this right with Del Rio, the Raiders need solid coordinators around him. You can actually make that one coordinator because Del Rio picked a winner for the defensive side of the ball. John Pagano has pressed all the right buttons since taking Ken Norton Jr.’s place after week 11.

Under Norton, the Raiders gave up 368.2 yards and 24.8 points per game. Since Pagano has taken over, the Raiders have given up 304.75 yards and 19.25 points per game. Right now, that 368.2 yards per game would be good enough for No. 28 in the NFL.

If the Raiders had given up 304.75 yards per game all year, they would be No. 4 in the league.

Their points per game under Norton would have them at No. 27 right now and if Pagano had the defense from the beginning of the season, they would be at No. 5.

With the injuries he’s had on defense, Pagano has made lemonade out of lemons. He’s done that by getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And Pagano is creative in doing so with overload blitzes on the other side of 2016 Defensive player of the Year Khalil Mack and lining fellow edge rusher Bruce Irvin up on the same side.

According to Pro Football Focus, in Norton’s time, the Raiders only had pressures on 32.4 percent of four-man rushes and 39.47 percent of blitzes. Since Pagano has taken over, the Raiders have had pressures on 37.7 percent of 4-man rushes and 44.19% of blitzes.

Pagano is getting Irvin — whose picture was on the back of a milk carton — going. He had just 2.5 sacks in the first 10 games of this season under Norton. Since Pagano has taken over, he’s had five sacks in the last four games. Irvin was the angriest and spoke the loudest when Norton was fired but that should no longer be the case.

Mack will always be Mack but since Pagano has taken over, he has sacked opposing quarterbacks in all four games. It’s been five games straight in all as he had one in Norton’s last game against the Patriots.

In this span of four games, he’s had five sacks compared to 5.5 sacks in the first 10 games to give him 10.5 on the season. The improved pass rush has led to an improvement of a leaky secondary that’s missing David Amerson and 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley.

Pagano has even started to get something out of cornerback Sean Smith, who was sent to the bench for ineffective play until the injuries mounted. Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, he had two interceptions. He has played much better since Pagano went to more Cover-2-man looks and less of that Cover-1-Cover-3, press, bail.

Speaking of INT’s, the Raiders didn’t have one the whole 10 games Norton was in charge this year — setting a new NFL record. They have four INT’s in four games since Pagano took over. So the arrows are pointing up for the Raider D thanks to Pagano.