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Oakland Raider Defensive Preview: Know Thine Enemy

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle” --Sun Tzu

Thearon W. Henderson

The Basics

The Oakland Raiders defense is currently ranked 5th in the league in yards per game having allowed an average of 261.0 yards through the first two weeks of the season.  They are ranked 5th in passing yards per game (180.5) and 10th against the run (80.5).  Their defense has allowed a total of 30 points against the Colts and Jaguars which is good for 3rd best in the NFL.

Some of these numbers are inflated.  The Colts are middle of the pack as far as offensive production and the Jaguars are pathetic and dead last in just about every major offensive category.  Still, it isn't as if the Raiders are just padding their numbers against inferior competition, they look good as a defense.  At times, they mirror exactly what the Broncos have done with their 5-2 looks and coverage schemes.  Dennis Allen is a good coach and I believe he has them on the right path.

The Pass Rush

Overall, the Raiders lead the league in sacks so far with 9.  Like Denver they have gotten pressure from a variety of spots.  Tracy Porter has 1.5 sacks, Tyvon Branch, Brandian Ross, Usama Young each have one.  Those are all secondary guys meaning we will see some corner and safety blitzes.

When it comes to pressure up front, both of their defensive ends have delivered.  Former Bronco Jason Hunter leads them with 2 sacks and Lamaar Houston has added another.

Houston is ranked by PFF as the 2nd most disruptive pass rusher with 16 total pressures on 69 rush snaps.  He will be rushing from the RDE position so it will be quite a test for backup Chris Clark.  Hunter comes in at #11 with 7 total pressures on 53 rush snaps.  #98 Vance Walker is the only Raiders DT that shows up on the rankings with 3 total pressures.

As far as the linebackers and secondary Nick Roach (19 snaps 2 pressures), Kevin Burnett (15 snaps 3 pressures), Sio Moore (13 snaps 1 pressure) as well as Tracy Porter (9 snaps 1 pressure) and Brandian Ross (12 snaps 0 pressures) lead the way in pass rushing attempts.  No one from those groups has a positive grade in this category.

The Run Stuffers

This has been the key to their success so far.  They've been able to shut down the opposing teams running games which has kept them in favorable 3rd down situations.  Three out of four starters on the Raiders defensive line and every starting LB along with DB Brandian Ross grade out positively in the running game.  The Raiders thus far have been very disciplined in their gap control and it shows up in the statline.

The Coverage

SS Tyvon Branch will be out of the game with a broken leg.  In his place Usama Young and Brandian Ross will share the responsibility. Sio Moore, Charles Woodson, and Mike Jenkins all grade out positively against the pass.

I've seen Woodson used in the deep centerfielder role quite often (think Rahim Moore).  Not a lot of Cover 2, but just like the Broncos a lot of Cover 1.  They mix things up of course but their defense reminds me a lot of what the Broncos ran last year as far as man coverage and their 4-3 concepts.

Depth Chart

POS First Second Third Other
RDE 99 Lamarr Houston 58 Ryan Robinson

DT 98 Vance Walker 96 Christo Bilukidi

NT 90 Pat Sims 92 Stacy McGee

LDE 93 Jason Hunter 91 Jack Crawford 75 Brian Sanford
WLB 94 Kevin Burnett 50 Kaluka Maiava

MLB 53 Nick Roach Kaluka Maiava

SLB 55 Sio Moore 95 Kaelin Burnett

RCB 23 Tracy Porter 28 Phillip Adams 35 Chimdi Chekwa
LCB 21 Mike Jenkins 25 DJ Hayden 22 Taiwan Jones
FS 24 Charles Woodson 26 Usama Young

SS 33 Tyvon Branch 29 Brandian Ross

Keep in mind with Branch out, both Young and Ross will get snaps in his place.


4-3 Base


Pretty standard.  Here they shift their linebackers over to the weakside of the formation. Press man from Porter, Branch in more of a run "robber" role.  Again, note that they don't really flip and switch their DE's.  You will almost always see Hunter at LDE and Houston at RDE.

5-2 Look

Shift one of the linebackers to the LOS and you have a variation on the 5-2.  Same concept the Broncos use with Von Miller to the strongside of the formation.



Hayden is your nickelback.  In this play they will blitz 6.  The off coverage across the board hints they might be on Cover 1 which they are.  Luck sees it and Reggie Wayne beats Tracy Porter to the corner of the endzone for a TD.



The Raiders like to run a 3-2 variation of the Dime with #98 as the NT.  Same rush ends with both Roach and Burnett as the linebackers.  Burnett is what you would consider their coverage linebacker though Sio Moore could probably fill the responsibilities as well.  On this snap, the 3rd safety in the formation (Ross) comes off the edge on a blitz.


Players to Watch

Lamar Houston has been a disruptive force so far.  Now he gets to matchup against backup Chris Clark.  If I'm the Broncos I chip a man all day to that side.

Tracy Porter is that boom or bust player we all saw last year.  The interesting thing I noticed from last year was that he was amazing at reading and diagnosing those short routes.  He jumped a couple and almost got a pick.  He can be fooled by double moves and be beaten deep, but I would be careful with him underneath.

DJ Hayden looks to have slot responsibility against Wes Welker.  He looks pretty decent from what I've seen.  I'll take this matchup all day though.

Julius Thomas looks to have a pretty solid matchup against Kevin Burnett.  Whether the Broncos choose to run more 12 personnel or 11 personnel is not the question.  Burnett will have that matchup all day.  The question is whether or not the Raiders will choose to bracket JT or Welker for that matter with Charles Woodson.  I am confident we can win outside, but I'm more intrigued on attacking the middle of this Raiders coverage scheme with two potent weapons.

Sio Moore was a personal favorite of mine from this past draft. Even though it didn't make a lot of sense, I wanted to see him in Orange and Blue haha.  He's a playmaker and a three tool linebacker that can play the run, cover, and rush the passer.  I will be interested to see how they use him in situational football.

Overall, I see a pretty simple defense that is solid with fundaments and technique.  We aren't going to see a lot of flashy scheming or blitzes a la Jack Del Rio, but Dennis Allen will have his defense prepared and I'm seeing them play more disciplined than they have in the past.

Check back tomorrow MHR when I take a look at their offense.  If you're a Raider fan and can read fonts other than "Old English" share any information you have about your team, and if I got something wrong let me know as well.