It may take all of the 2016 NFL regular season for the Oakland Raiders defense to catch up to the level of productivity of their offense. Fortunately, that may be more than enough time, as the offense has been rolling right along. On that same note, imagine if the Raiders, who are 5-2 currently, are able to get their defense to be even remotely close to as productive as their offense. It’s a pretty scary thing for the rest of the NFL, and specifically for whoever the Raiders play down the home stretch of 2015 and possibly in the playoffs.
On offense, the offensive dominance of the Raiders isn’t something new. They’ve averaged 369.6 yards per game and 26.4 points per game. Quarterback Derek Carr looks like a legitimate MVP candidate, as he’s completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 1,808 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions through seven games.
As for the defense, well, that’s a completely different ballgame. The Raiders have allowed 25.6 points per game, as well as a league-leading 430.4 yards per game. It’s actually a bit shocking that the Raiders have five wins through seven games with that many yards per game allowed. To go along with that, Oakland also has just nine sacks this season, which ranks as the second-fewest in the league. The question is, why on earth would there even be any reason to believe the Raiders defense is even capable of turning a corner?
Recent performances can tell a story. Sure, seeing the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons or even San Diego Chargers score big points on them early in the season is tough to watch, but it’s not surprising. All three of those teams have solid offenses, but they were much improved against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their 33-16 victory in Week 7.
While the Jaguars haven’t been great this year and dropped the 2-4 on the season with the loss, that’s all irrelevant. What matters is that the Raiders have shown signs of being able to step up and play solid defense. Whether it’s holding the Jaguars to 16 points or the Tennessee Titans to 10 points, this defense is showing glimpses of upside on that side of the ball.
The Jaguars game specifically was impressive for a few different reasons. While Jacksonville totaled 344 yards of offense, they were forced into three turnovers by the Raiders defense and went just one of four in the red zone as well. Finally, the Jaguars were able to convert on only four of 13 third-down attempts. Those final two stats are the types of things that can not only help a defense build confidence but help to get them over the top.
Possibly the most impressive part of what the Raiders did in Week 7, and possibly this season, was shutting down the duo of Blake Bortles/Allen Robinson. While neither has been great this year, we know how good they’re capable of becoming. Bortles completed just 23-of-43 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions while posting a quarterback rating of just 58.9. Robinson on the other hand caught just two passes on eight targets for a total of nine yards.
Oakland looks like they may have figured out how to slow down top wide receivers, and also create plenty of turnovers. These two things together may be the start of something beautiful.