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Raiders-Texans preview: Patrick Graham looking for defensive consistency

New-look defense hasn’t been to par

Arizona Cardinals v Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Graham
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

There are a lot of reasons why the Las Vegas Raiders are coming out of the bye at a disappointing 1-4 and the defense is one of them.

Simply put, the new-look unit has not shown much improvement under first-year defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Sure, pass-rusher Maxx Crosby is having another monster season, but, overall, the unit has been lacking.

As the Raiders prepare to host the Houston Texans on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium (kickoff is set for 1:05 a.m.), Graham is looking for more consistency from his unit in time to play an uneven Houston offense.

“We’re in the process of that. Again, first time together. I know it’s been five games and we’re trying to build that consistency,” Graham said this week. “It’s going to start in practice. I can’t stress that enough. It starts with practice, and we got to become more consistent out there on the field because there have been some good quarters of football. But again, nobody cares about that. You got to string together 60 minutes or 70 minutes if you’re thinking about the Arizona Game.

“So, what I do is go back to the drawing board in terms of making sure we get practices as close to game reality as possible and just keep improving from there. And keep demanding the standard and just keep working for improvement each day. That’s really the main focus right now moving ahead, is just improve each day. Make sure that we’re emphasizing our strengths, trying to eliminate our weaknesses, and keep working that way.”

One area Las Vegas’ defense needs to improve is in the red zone. According to Team Rankings, the Raiders are allowing opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone 82 percent of drives. That is the worst rate in the NFL. Graham knows it’s a work in progress.

“Again, I’d say starts with me in terms of I got to coach it better, in terms of getting the guys prepared better there. I’m sure there’s a few calls I wish I had back and everything like that,” Graham said. “But, again, the beauty of this league and why I love the challenge of it, is that nothing you did last year or even last week really matters. So, the biggest thing is the challenge for this week. I think Houston is ranked 10th in the red area because they got a running back that can run the ball in. I mean, that’s one thing. Quarterback makes smart decisions down there. So, we’re getting back to the drawing board. Probably start a little early on red area and try to get it fixed. I know during the bye week you know, Josh [McDaniels] talked about us going back through things, self-scout like all teams do, and that was part of it. And just try to get better and try to improve. But fortunately, unfortunately, I love the challenge of this league and it doesn’t matter what we did in the past.”

Expect to see a sense of urgency by Graham and his players as the Raiders try to get out of their funk.