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Jon Gruden says changes are coming to improve Raiders’ struggling defense: ‘Everything is on the table’

Lineup and scheme tweaks may happen this week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Las Vegas Raiders
Maliek Collins
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After yet another poor defensive effort, Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he and his coaching staff had been in the “laboratory” since the early hours Monday, trying to figure a way to get the unit right.

Without getting into details, Gruden said the Raiders may tinker with the lineup and with schemes to try to spark an improvement. Gruden stated that he doesn’t expect to make coaching changes or major player additions. He said the team has the “right stuff” and “enough talent” on defense — yet, it is allowing 33.8 points a game and has just seven sacks in six games.

Much of the change Gruden alluded to centered on getting a better pass rush, which has been non-existent for much of the season. The Raiders hit Tom Brady once Sunday in a 45-20 home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“We’re going to try to get the best four out there that we can,” Gruden said on Monday. “Whether that involves more blitzing, we’ll see. Who goes inside, who goes outside. Who’s on the left side, who’s on the right side. What stunts we call. What blitzes we call.

“Everything is on the table. We’ve been meeting since very early in the morning. We’re going to play better on defense, I’m determined to make sure we prove that this week.”

Gruden added he thinks the solution can be found with the group the Raiders currently have. “There’s a lot of people talking about are we making changes, are we going to bring in new coaches, new players?” Gruden said. “We are where we are. We’re 3-3. We played some really good offenses. Just so you know, Tom Brady is a problem for a lot of people. So is Drew Brees and certainly a lot of guys that we’ve seen are very good players. We’re going to stick together, bond together. We’re going to make some changes in the lineup possibly and in the scheme that we use, and we’re hopefully going to change the results we’ve been getting.”

When coaches talk about personnel and scheme changes this late into the season, it is usually an act of desperation. That doesn’t mean it won’t work, but it won’t be easy.

The Raiders did use defensive tackle Maurice Hurst on the outside in a few looks on Sunday, so that could happen again. Perhaps Clelin Ferrell will move inside more, perhaps Datone Jones and Chris Smith be part of the mix as they played well in Week 5 in a win at Kansas City. Perhaps Maliek Collins will lose playing time. Gruden said in August he would be the key to the defense, but he hasn’t played well at all. Perhaps David Irving, who was reverted back to the practice squad Monday, will be back on the 53-man roster soon and be put in the pass-rush rotation.

It’s clear Gruden knows changes are needed. Now, it’s time to see what he and his staff can come up with.