Run defense once again a problem for Raiders
It doesn't take a master tactician to figure out how to attack the Oakland Raiders defense.
With the Raiders allowing an NFL-worst 5.9 yards per carry one quarter of the way through the season, Oakland coach Hue Jackson knows exactly what he'd do if he got the chance to call plays against his own defense.
''I'm running the ball,'' he said. ''I'm running the ball until I can get them to make me stop running the ball.''
The Raiders (2-2) have not been able to do that very well after a strong start to the season in Denver, ranking fourth worst in the league so far in run defense at 136 yards per game.
Buffalo ran for 223 yards on just 24 carries to fuel a big second-half comeback in Week 2; the New York Jets gained 100 yards the following week; and even the pass-happy New England Patriots took advantage of Oakland's big weakness by rushing for 183 yards on 30 carries in a 31-19 victory last week.
Now the Raiders get to face last year's leading rusher in the NFL when they visit Arian Foster and the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Jackson is putting extra emphasis on tackling and being in the right position this week in practice in order to solve the run defense problem.
''I don't think any player on our team wants the ball being run at them like that,'' Jackson said. ''I'm not going to tell you it's scheme. Here's the deal, you got to get it solved, we have to get it stopped, that's what we've got to do. We must quit letting people run the ball at us like people have.''
Few teams have ever had a run defense as bad as the Raiders have been so far this season. The only team in NFL history to allow more yards per rush in a season is the 1934 Cincinnati Reds, who gave up 6.4 yards per carry on their way to an 0-8 mark before being suspended from the league for defaulting on their payroll.
The worst mark for a team that actually completed a season was 5.63 yards per carry by the 1950 New York Yankees - who were out of the NFL one year later.
In fact, only eight teams since the 1970 NFL merger have allowed at least 5 yards per carry for a single season, with the worst mark being set by the 2006 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts at 5.3.
The issues with stopping the run aren't new for the Raiders, who have allowed the most yards rushing and most rushing touchdowns in the NFL since the start of the 2003 season.
''I don't know what's gone on in the past,'' Jackson said. ''I know what's happening right now, and we haven't got it solved and we've got to fix it. That's my job, it's the defensive coaches' job, it's the defensive players' job.''
A big difference so far this season in the run defense is the lack of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Even when the Raiders were finishing 29th in the league in rush defense a year ago, they were tied for second in the league with 54 negative rushes against. This season, they have only eight tackled behind the line on run plays to rank 23rd in the league.
Big plays are still a problem in Oakland as the Raiders are last in the league with 20 runs against for at least 10 yards and eight that have gone for at least 20.
That often is a case of one player trying to do too much or being out of position.
''Everybody is accountable for themselves,'' middle linebacker Rolando McClain said. ''I'm a grown man out there. There is no finger pointing out there. You point a finger at one guy you've got three fingers pointing back. So everybody just needs to be accountable for what they do. Don't try to do another man's job, just do your job. And defense works out for itself.''
Oakland better fix these issues quickly because the Texans offer quite a stiff test. The Raiders had their worst game in run defense a year ago against the Texans, who rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries in a 31-24 victory in October.
Foster ran for 133 yards on 17 carries despite being benched for a disciplinary problem, highlighting his day with a 74-yard TD run in the third quarter. The Raiders know they can afford few mistakes if they want to stop him this week.
''It isn't just the defensive front or it isn't just the linebackers. It's everybody collectively to stop the run,'' defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. '''It's 11 guys on defense because they run inside, they run outside, they have toss plays, inside trap plays. It's a lot of different things that they do. It's that old Denver running game in terms of catch the ball and one cut downhill.''
Notes: Practice squad FB Manase Tonga got the majority of time in practice with starter Marcel Reece (ankle) and his backup Richard Gordon (hand) out with injuries. RB Rock Cartwright is also an option if the Raiders need a fill-in and don't promote Tonga. ... CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) had a setback Wednesday and was held out of practice. ... WR Louis Murphy (groin) practiced for a second straight day and said it will be a game-time decision whether he plays.