Del Rio promises changes for Raiders struggling defense
Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio walks on the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) After watching his defense give up more yards in the first two weeks than any team in NFL history, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio has seen enough.
Del Rio said Monday he wants to see rookies Karl Joseph and Cory James get more playing time, defensive calls get made quicker, and players to follow their assignments properly after the defense cost Oakland in a 35-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Del Rio did not say whether he will take over more of the play-calling duties on defense for the Raiders (1-1) from coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after taking that role in the final drive against the Falcons.
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''Who sends the call in is not what's most important,'' Del Rio said. ''Priority No. 1 has to be getting our guys to stop having eye violations. Get your eyes where they belong and do your job.''
The changes Del Rio will make for this week's game at Tennessee (1-1) will be to insert first-round draft pick Joseph at safety in place of Keith McGill, and fellow rookie James at linebacker in place of Ben Heeney.
Joseph has had no defensive snaps through two games, while James got some action late against the Falcons.
''I think if you don't make plays and you're in there, you leave the door open for other guys to get opportunities to play,'' Del Rio said. ''At the end of the day, we're just looking for production.''
The defense has had little of that so far this season, allowing 507 yards in a season-opening 35-34 win at New Orleans and 528 in the loss to the Falcons. Oakland is the first team since the 1967 Falcons to open the season allowing at least 500 yards in two straight games, and the 1,035 total yards allowed are the most after two games since at least 1940, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Raiders have allowed opponents to complete 71.1 percent of their passes, are giving up 8.0 yards per play, and have just two sacks through two games.
While Oakland has faced two top quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, has been missing defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., and has been breaking in new starters in cornerback Sean Smith, safety Reggie Nelson, linebacker Bruce Irvin and defensive lineman Jihad Ward, Del Rio is not seeking excuses.
''There are a lot of different alibis that are possible,'' he said. ''I'm not really interested in alibis. For us, we're looking for answers. We're all accountable. It starts with me. … We'll get this thing headed in the right direction on defense.''
There were issues beyond the defense. The special teams allowed a 73-yard punt return by Eric Weems that set up a score, and the offense failed to convert a key fourth-and-2 late in the game that Del Rio would like to have run differently.
After an apparent tying 51-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper was called back because Cooper went out of bounds before making the catch, the Raiders went for it with a run to rookie Jalen Richard that gained only 1 yard. Del Rio said he should have used one of his bigger backs like Latavius Murray or Jamize Olawale on the play, but didn't want to burn a timeout to make the change.
''We've got a couple of hammerheads who might have been a little better between Maze and Latavius,'' he said. ''We come out of there saying I'd like to have that one back.''
NOTES: RT Menelik Watson (groin) worked out Monday, but Del Rio didn't know whether he'd be able this week. … CB David Amerson left the game early with a concussion and Del Rio will know more about his status for this week on Wednesday.
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