It’s amazing how one win cures all that plagues the Las Vegas Raiders, particularly regarding the overall performance of the defense on Monday night, where they had a solid performance against the Green Bay Packers.
Edge rusher Maxx Crosby once again led the way in the 17-13 victory, where he solidified his case as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He finished the game with five tackles, four tackles for loss, and one sack, earning himself AFC’s Defensive of the Week honors.
Linebackers Divine Deablo and Robert Spillane were also key contributors on Monday Night, with Deablo leading the team in total tackles with 10, and Spillane snagging two of the team’s three interceptions, changing the complexion of the game.
Naturally, as a result of the Raiders’ brilliant defensive performance on Monday, the likes of which hasn’t been seen by Raider Nation in years, the talks have begun surrounding whether or not the Raiders finally have the defense to compete in an offense-dominated AFC. Now, as I’ve grown a reputation of being the official voice of optimism, I’m here this time to put a kibosh on Raider Nation’s rising confidence in this defense. Pump the brakes on the Raiders’ defense hype.
Sure, the Raiders have recorded two and a half solid defensive performances (Broncos, Packers, 2nd half vs. Chargers), where they allowed only a combined 34 points, but when looking deeper into the numbers, it will bring you pause. In the Raiders’ first five games, they have allowed an average of 129.4 yards/game, good for 23rd in the league. Moreover, the Raiders have given up 4.3 yards per rush attempt, which is tied for 20th in the league– not anything to write home about.
To dig further into the defense, the Raiders sit at the bottom-third in the league in takeaways with four and are one of two teams (Carolina Panthers) who have yet to record a fumble recovery.
This does not sound like a defense who has finally turned the corner.
In defense, the Raiders are currently giving up just 197.2 passing yards per game in five games, which sits at 11th in the league, but gives up 6.4 yards per pass attempt, which sits at the middle of the pack. Moreover, the Raiders gave up 5.8 yards per pass attempt vs. the Packers, which is excellent.
The problem with being excited about these numbers is that the Raiders have thrived and boosted their numbers against subpar quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, Kenny Pickett, and Jordan Love. The Raiders also faced a depleted Chargers offense without running back Austin Ekeler and wideout Mike Williams.
Conversely, the Raiders’ defense was picked apart in all phases of offense against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. If the Raiders’ defense want to be taken seriously, they need to show up against the elite offenses in the league. Even if they generate a good outing against the Patriots and Bears, it will mean nothing if they don’t deliver against the Lions, Chiefs, and Vikings later this season.
Don’t mistake it, the Raiders have improved immensely from last season on defense, but with the lack of generated turnovers, the inability to slow the opponent’s rushing attack, and not being able to get off the field on third down, it leaves a lot to be desired. Stay tuned.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?
If the Raiders continue down this path of having a respectable defense, while having an inept offense that sits at the bottom of league in most statistical categories, it would be reminiscent of the 2006 Oakland Raiders, led by Nnamdi Asomugha, Derrick Burgess, Warren Sapp, Tommy Kelly, Kirk Morrison, and Stuart Schweigert, where the defense ranked second in the NFL in yards per play allowed with 4.6, yet had a historically bad offense to compliment, scoring just 10.5 points per game. That team finished 2-14 under Head Coach Art Shell, who was fired upon completion of the season. A solid defense will mean nothing if you can not bring a solid offense to boot. If the 2023 Raiders want to buck the aforementioned trajectory, current Head Coach Josh McDaniels must dig into his bag to find a spark for the offense, who are currently averaging just 15.8 points per game, which currently ranks 29th in the league. As a team, the Raiders sit at the bottom of the league in turnover differential with a -7, which usually translates to a losing season.
So before we all get excited about the Raiders’ success on defense, let me be the all too familiar wet blanket. Lots of things must be cleaned up before we anoint this defense.