Oakland Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen reset the defense this offseason by adding nine new starters. Through the first six games of the 2013 season, those moves have upgraded the defense massively.
All the new players received one or two year deals, giving them extra incentive to perform. The defensive line was a huge question mark coming into the season, but has played well above expectations. The linebacking corps is completely different with all three, Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett, and Sio Moore, new to the team. The secondary which has a huge issue last season was changed with three new starters. Safety Charles Woodson came back to Oakland this season and has rewarded the team with a fumble recovery taken back for a touchdown, 33 tackles, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble.
So the Raiders saw the issue was the talent and improved at every position, besides defensive end Lamarr Houston and strong safety Tyvon Branch, who has missed the last four games to injury. The Raiders brass got their guys to improve the defense and then it was up to Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to put these guys in position to make plays. Both have serious defensive chops and put together a defensive scheme that confuses opposing offenses and then brings pressure.
“Well, you have concepts that you do defensively and what you try to do is try to change the look up a little bit, but it’s really not different for your players,” Allen said. “And we try to do that in every game so the offense can’t just get a beat on where we’re coming from and what we’re doing. That’s critical to the success of our defense. I think our guys have done a pretty good job of understanding how we can just change a couple of different players in a particular concept and it looks totally different to the offense, but it really it’s not anything different for us. You try to be as complicated as you can from a look standpoint for the offense, but yet not change too much defensively so you don’t make the mistakes.”
More evidence the Raiders defense has improved beyond watching the product on the field, last season the Raiders struggled to get pressure on the quarterback and especially bringing him down for sacks, resulting in only 25 sacks the whole season. This season the Raiders have had great success bringing pressure with 16 sacks. Those 16 sacks have been accumulated by 12 different players. That's the confusion and pressure Allen and Tarver are implementing. Clearly the Raiders are not shy to send anybody on the defense at the quarterback.
Another monster aspect the Raiders defense has improved is takeaways. Last season, Oakland's defense entered their bye in week five without generating a turnover. They finished the season with 11 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries for a total of 19 takeaways. This season the Raiders have nine takeaways, three interceptions and six fumble recoveries. They have also cashed them in for points getting a touchdown from Woodson. In 2012, they had zero turnovers returned for a score.
The 2013 Raiders defense has been surprise. They have risen to the challenge and set the tone for this team. They have been able to keep the Raiders in every game this season, including against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. As they continue to improve along with the Raiders offense, this team becomes far more dangerous to opponents.
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