The Oakland Raiders are a much better team than the one we saw Sunday night, but their defense will hold them back until further notice.
With the additions of Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook to an already loaded offense, the notion of success for the 2017 Oakland Raiders hinged on the defense being passable. Last year, Oakland’s defense finished dead last in yards allowed per play and sacks totaled, despite having Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack flying around the edge.
Two games in, the Raiders appeared improved. They held the Tennessee Titans to 16 points in the opener before surrendering 20 to an albeit punchless New York Jets team.
However, in Week 3, all the ugliness bubbling beneath the surface reappeared. The Washington Redskins, without Jordan Reed or Rob Kelley, dismantled Oakland’s defense with 472 total yards. Kirk Cousins completed 25-of-30 for 365 yards and three touchdowns, with four different receivers going over 50 yards.
In short, it was the kind of defensive effort that head coach Jack Del Rio and coordinator Ken Norton Jr. saw far too often in 016, and had hoped was left there.
So was the performance an aberration or a sign of things to come? Let’s go to the film.
It’s 3rd down and 6 from the Oakland 22-yard line in the first quarter, 10:17 remaining. The Redskins come out in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) which is countered by Oakland’s nickel defense.
As shown above, the Raiders are bringing an overload blitz off the left side. Because of this, Cousins knows that the throw should go left, because you always throw toward the vacated zone. In this case, a very vacated zone.
Cousins is about to throw, and there’s a ton to unpack here. First off, either Norton has the worst blitz design ever witnessed, or an underneath zone was blown by middle linebacker Cory James (top of the yellow circle). Oakland has three defenders (James, Mack and T.J. Carrie) within 10 feet of each other.
Regardless, look at the yellow circle. Running back Chris Thompson is flaring into the flat, and there is nobody within 10 yards of him. Considering he only needs to reach the 16-yard line, that’s a problem. Cousins simply has to get the ball over the oncoming rush — which didn’t get home — and it’s an easy first down.
Finally, why are the Raiders dropping Mack (red circle)? This blitz would have gotten him a one-on-one with no help against Morgan Moses on the right side. Instead, the design gives it to defensive tackle Treyvon Hester, who gets stonewalled.
The result is what you would expect it to be…