New defense leads to same poor results for Raiders

A new defensive scheme that was supposed to transform a

struggling unit has led to perhaps the least productive defense in

Oakland Raiders history.

The Raiders (1-3) returned to practice Monday after having four

days off for their bye week looking for answers on how to fix a

defense that is on pace to allow the most points and yards in a

season in team history.

They will be tested right out of their bye, with a cross-country

trip to Atlanta (5-0) on tap to face Matt Ryan and an offense that

has scored touchdowns on the highest percentage of drives in the

league so far.

”I’m definitely surprised,” defensive back Michael Huff said

of the struggles. ”I was the one buying in, believed in the

scheme, believed in the coaches, believed in everything. I’m not

staying away from that. Watching on film, we see what we can be.

We’re still one play here, one play there. It’s there to be had. We

just got to make the plays.”

Huff was the most vocal proponent of the new scheme, saying he

was looking forward to playing a ”real defense” for a change

under head coach Dennis Allen and new coordinator Jason Tarver.

Until his death a year ago Monday, longtime Raiders owner Al

Davis was heavily involved in the team’s defense, picking

coordinators who would usually use his preferred system of

bump-and-run coverage on the outside and pressure coming from a

four-man defensive line.

Allen, the former defensive coordinator in Denver, became the

team’s first defensive-minded head coach since John Madden in the

1970s. He brought in a defense that featured multiple fronts and

coverages and was supposed to have more blitzes than Oakland was

used to using.

That new variety hasn’t led to new success so far as the Raiders

have allowed 125 points in the first four games – the most at this

point of the season since 1962. Oakland is giving up 411.5 yards

per game, allowing opponents to complete 71.5 percent of their

passes and has managed just three sacks and three turnovers in four

games.

”We got to have 11 people flying around to the football, flying

around like their hair is on fire,” Allen said. ”That’s the way

you play defensive football. It’s been that way since the beginning

of time, and it won’t change.”

Part of the problem can be attributed to injuries to starting

cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Bartell went out with

a broken shoulder blade in the season opener against San Diego and

Spencer sprained his right foot the following week in a loss to

Miami.

Bartell will be out until at least Nov. 11 and Spencer remains

in a walking boot and has not been cleared to practice. The

injuries have forced Huff to move from free safety to cornerback,

where he has allowed nine catches on 15 throws for 145 yards and

two touchdowns in his two starts on the outside, according to STATS

LLC.

Pat Lee, who started one game in three seasons in Green Bay, has

played the other side. The inexperience at cornerback has limited

some of what the new defense can do. When the Raiders have blitzed

so far this season it has been mostly unsuccessful. They got one

sack of Philip Rivers on the first drive of the opener against the

Chargers. But they have no sacks on the other 52 pass plays against

the blitz, allowing 38 completions for 442 yards and three

touchdowns for a passer rating of 117.6, according to STATS.

Opponents have been mostly completing short passes against the

Raiders, with the average completion coming 5.1 yards down the

field compared to 6.9 a year ago. That’s the second-shortest

average completion mark for any defense this season and the lowest

for the Raiders since the statistic was first measured in 1992 as

opponents have feasted on quick passes against zone coverage.

”That’s kind of when you’ve got to play man, like the old

days,” Huff said. ”Got to throw quick passes, got to play more

man coverage, get tighter to the receivers, because obviously

there’s holes in every zone, so I think games like that you’ve got

to play more man. So we’ll see.”

The biggest problems have been on third down where Oakland is

allowing a league-worst 53.3 percent conversion rate – on pace for

the worst mark in NFL history.

”You’re not going to win many games in this league if you can’t

win on third down,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. ”I

just think if we look ourselves in the mirror and say, each guy

instead of looking around saying what someone else should be doing,

if we take that and lay the burden on our shoulders, we’ll be where

we want to be.”

NOTES: Monday was the one-year anniversary of Davis’ death.

”He’ll always be remembered whether it’s the one-year or the

10-year, the century mark, decade mark, you’re always going to

think about what it meant to put on the silver and black and just

that mindset and mentality,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour

said. … Allen said he expected LB Aaron Curry (knees) to come off

the physically unable to perform list and begin practice next week

when he is first eligible…. OT Khalif Barnes (groin) and TE

Richard Gordon (hamstring) did not practice and are week to

week.

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