Head coach Jon Gruden’s plan for the Oakland Raiders’ future better be good. He denied it but he and his Raiders are definitely tanking for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019. All the Raiders’ better players that Gruden didn’t pick are being traded or cut.
It, of course, started when superstar edge-rusher Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears just before the season. That left Bruce Irvin in a position to fail as his move to defensive end full-time went from complementing Mack to trying to replace him. Irvin can get you a few sacks here and there but he isn’t a primary pass-rusher. But he was the best the Raiders had after Mack was sent to Chicago. Irvin has 3.0 of the Raiders seven sacks this year despite having his snaps significantly reduced.
Three sacks in eight games isn’t great but was cutting him the answer? Did they watch any film on him from last year?
Irvin is a good football player who was listed at No. 85 on the NFL’s Top-100 List. He plays the run well and covers very well at OLB but the defensive coordinator Paul Guenther never used his skill-set properly.
Irvin’s 11 forced fumbles since the start of 2016 are the most in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, his pass-rush grade was only 60.5 while his coverage grade was 81.3 and his run defense grade was 73.6 with his grades matching his tape.
When pass-rushing didn’t work out as a defensive end, he should have been moved back to OLB. Tahir Whitehead is the one that should have been cut or demoted as he has been the worst defensive player the Raiders have.
PFF puts Whitehead’s run defense grade at 51.8 and his coverage grade a horrible 40.8. Never mind almost 100 percent of his targets being completed on him for seven touchdowns in eight games for a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Whitehead is giving up 17.6 yards per reception and had a completion of 71 yards thrown on him against the 49ers.
Compare that to two TD’s and 7.1 yards per reception with a long of 22 yards Irvin gave up at OLB last year. When told how bad Whitehead was doing, Gruden acted like he had no idea it was like that.
“Is that true? Is that your study,” Gruden said to the media. “30-for-30. Sounds like a television show or something.
“You know what, he’s been a good linebacker. He’s been a good nickel linebacker in the league for a long time. I think when you look at the kind of throws that have been complete, you have to sometimes take a look at them. Are they quick screens? Are they screen passes?
“I like Whitehead. I like Whitehead a lot. If you’re listening, Tahir, I think you’re one heck of a linebacker. But we have to do a better job. We have to do a better job stopping the run, stopping the pass. We have to do a better job collectively, coaches and players, figuring out our defense.”
Is that his justification for keeping Whitehead around?
Gruden just loves who he loves. This has to be a tank-move because the Raider defense won’t improve as much as it can if Whitehead is the OLB next year. As it is now, the Raiders cut the wrong guy.