Every team needs to find that balance between the offense and the defense, and the Raiders have shown that the QB position is doing fine. Maybe with a not great but good Raiders defense, the overall improvement of the team can be immediately impacted.
The negative highlights of the Raiders defense and offense.
Aside of every opportunity the Raiders offense has to improve in every position, Derek Carr needs to secure more the ball when breaking the pocket, and also be more effective throwing the ball inside the red zone. According to PFF, last season Carr had the lower TD% in the red zone since 2016, the last year the Raiders played in the post season. The offense has every ingredient to deliver, and with Raider Nation’s patience is decreasing maybe faster than ever, we should see some big improvements next year.
The other important part is the defense, and even though the defense has bigger improvement areas, maybe the task of having a good defense won’t be that hard to accomplish. Under a new defensive coordination, the Raiders defense could start being effective.
There are a lot of (justified) uncertainty regarding of how or the Raiders defense will work or what results will it bring. Beyond that uncertainty, there are the facts, and the most important fact for the Raiders defense is that they finished just seven spots far of being the worst defense in the NFL.
Raiders evolving day in and day out.
The energy and the new scheme of Gus Bradley during training camp have been little by little absorbed by the players on the defensive side of the ball since OTA’s. Bradley needs to keep a simple defense, and by simple, I mean not complicated for the players to react given any play situation. To execute and perform a good defense, there needs to be a lot of constructive communication and feedback inside the field where Bradley is not. If the communication is effective and clear, it will have a lot to do with Bradley having an “anchor” player on every defensive group.
On the defensive line, his “anchor” player is defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (yah-NEEK in-GAH-kway). The kind of leadership and experience that the ex-Terrapin brings to the Raiders defense will help on translating and implementing Bradley’s scheme. Of course, this is Yannick’s first season in the Raiders defense, but the five year veteran has shown since year one his physical abilities and the capacity to play every year with a high level. The defensive line has a lot of depth, but it looks at least for this part of the season, that it is a very solid group. Maxx Crosby continues looking sharp, Quinton Jefferson is a solid run stopper, and having a four-time All-Pro in Gerald McCoy will also elevate the inside competition of an urgent needed effective defensive line.
The “anchor” player inside the LBs group has never played a snap for Bradley, but they’re known as opponents each other for a while and for now, Bradley made clear that Nicholas Morrow is a core guy for Bradley’s scheme. Since 2017, Morrow has become the LB with more continuity in the Raiders defense. LBs have come and gone but Morrow has been there and his performance speaks for itself, he finished the 2020 season as the only player in the NFL with at least three sacks and nine passes defensed, while his nine passes defensed ranked first in the league among all linebackers. Another valid reason for the Raiders to re-sign the Division III Greenville University graduate again on March 19, 2021.
On the defensive backs group, the “anchor” role belongs to Casey Hayward Jr. He obviously is familiar and comfortable playing under Bradley’s zone scheme. Hayward is looking to renovate himself in the Raiders defense and so far, he is ahead of Damon Arnette on the position battle. His contribution in a very young group of defensive backs could boost the unit right away and finally make them understand how to play in this new scheme.