Facing the league’s worst ranked offense in Week 9, the Las Vegas Raiders defense put together quite the effort racking up eight sacks and two interceptions. Here comes Week 10 and the Silver & Black play host to another struggling offense on Sunday Night in the New York Jets, affording the team one more shot to put forth a signature performance.
Unlike last week’s win over the downtrodden New York Giants (2-7 overall), the incoming Jets are .500 at 4-4 and are the obstacle in the Raiders’ way of reaching .500 as Las Vegas is currently 4-5. But Gang Green’s offense is very bit as bad as the G-Men’s as the Jets rank 30th in the league in points scored (132) and struggled mightily in a 27-6 Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
That was a tilt that saw starting quarterback Zach Wilson pressured constantly, having happy feet, and seeing ghosts as the Bolts sacked the third-year signal caller eight times and limited him to 33 of 49 passing for 263 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Hence why Maxx Crosby and the Raiders defense must feast this Sunday night. Mad Maxx continues to be a man possessed this season and led the Charge against the Giants with three sacks. Six other Raiders got into the sack-fest and with the incoming Jets, have another shot at having a party at the quarterback. Graham noted his defenders were hungry and feasted.
They can potentially do so in back-to-back weeks.
“Starts with the players, first and foremost. In terms of executing their assignments and the game plan for that game, they did a good job with that,” Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham noted during his mid-week media availability when asked about the eight sacks in Week 9. “But the thing that stands out the most when you look at all the pressures was the effort, just the guys’ relentless pursuit to the ball. They were hungry to get to the football. And I would say, again, I can’t give you the exact number, but a lot of sacks throughout this league starts with the effort of those players playing really hard on each play and making the play. That’s where a lot of sacks come in this league. And a combination of that and obviously on the back end, sacks aren’t possible without the coverage. That’s all tied together. So, again, it’s all about team defense, knowing the coverage and the rush all being tied together.”
Graham is right that all 11 have to be in unison and working together. Coverage on the back end helps boost the rush and the effort of the defenders going after the quarterback helps the secondary, too. And that all starts with Crosby who is the epitome of relentlessness.
Jet’s head coach Robert Saleh no doubt holds Crosby in high regard. Just listen:
#Jets HC Robert Saleh just told a hilarious @CrosbyMaxx story:— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) November 8, 2023
During the #NFLCombine in 2019 Crosby has a meeting w/ the #49ers & the D-Line coach Kris Kocurek flips on the tape & screams, ‘why’d you come out & he starts tearing into him, you shouldn’t have come out’ Crosby… pic.twitter.com/U6ZQfER81R
While Crosby is without question Las Vegas’ marquee defender, the group around him is important, too. And Graham was sure to stress that in his mid-week media session.
“For me, you can’t play defense without the ‘we.’ It’s 11 people out there,” Graham said. “We’re not calling plays, we’re calling the defense to defend the field and/or the situation, and you need all 11 to do that. So, I’m proud. I’m proud of those guys, how they’re playing and playing for each other, playing together. Just proud about the way they’re improving each week, and so that’s the biggest thing.”
The “we” mentality certainly showcased itself as defenders were playing inspired and sprinting to the football. With the Giants having to go to the air trailing by so many points, it allowed Graham to mix up coverages and dial up the blitzes and pressures to make New York’s efforts miserable. The Raiders must replicate that effort against the Jets. Make that New York squad one dimensional and force Wilson to beat the Silver & Black with his arm. That hasn’t produced positive results yet for the Jets. And With Crosby and crew pinning their ears back and attacking the young quarterback, that could portend to a nightmarish night for Wilson. The Raiders secondary made Giants backup and rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito pay for his misfires as both cornerbacks Amik Robertson and Nate Hobbs intercepted him twice.
It’s one thing to display exponentially better determination and drive when a pivotal change is made at head coach. It’s another thing to sustain that effort. If Las Vegas is serious about the new chapter phase its in under interim head coach Antonio Pierce’s guidance, then another smashmouth Raiders effort must happen. And Graham’s defense can play a big part in that.
A 5-5 Raiders team can be taken more seriously than a 4-6 squad that lost to a Jets team that can hardly score points on offense.