The relatively young defense of the Las Vegas Raiders played relatively well in the first five games of the season against some of the better quarterbacks in the National Football League.
The Silver and Black defeated Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes and the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and versatile Teddy Bridgewater and the Carolina Panthers.
In addition, the Raiders (3-3) had their moments even though they lost to Cam Newton and the New England Patriots, and Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.
However, last Sunday, 43-year-old Tom Brady torched the Raiders by completing 33-of-45 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to scoring on a quarterback sneak in a 45-20 victory at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Brady, considered the G.O.A.T., was barely touched by the Raiders, who have only seven sacks in six games, including four by defensive end Maxx Crosby, who led the team with 10 last season as a rookie.
No other Raider has more than one sack this season.
Coach Jon Gruden was asked on Monday what the Raiders are planning to do in order to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“We’re not going to get into that publicly, but we’re going to try to get the best four out there that we can, No. 1,” Gruden said. “Whether that involves more blitzing, we’ll see. Who goes inside, who goes outside. Who’s on the left side, who’s on the right side. What stunts we call. What blitzes we call.
“Everything is on the table. We’ve been meeting since very early in the morning. We’re going to play better on defense. I’m determined to make sure we prove that this week.”
The Raiders rank 26th in total defense in the NFL after six games, having allowed 2,422 total yards, including 1,703 yards passing and 11 touchdowns, and 719 more yards rushing and 12 more scores.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of people talking about are we making changes, are we going to bring in new coaches, new players,” Gruden said. “We are where we are. We’re 3-3. We played some really good offenses. Just so you know, Tom Brady is a problem for a lot of people. So is Drew Brees and certainly a lot of guys that we’ve seen are very good players.
“We’re going to stick together, bond together. We’re going to make some changes in the lineup possibly and in the scheme that we use, and we’re hopefully going to change the results we’ve been getting.”
The Raiders were missing safety Johnathan Abram against the Buccaneers because of Covid-19 restrictions, but even though the second-year man has played well this season it’s questionable whether he could have made a difference against the savvy Brady.
Gruden said the secondary is a particular area the Raiders are monitoring moving forward.
“Well we got to take a good look at it,” Gruden said. “It’s a breakdown here, it’s a breakdown there. It’s not a good enough rush there. We have to look at the coverages we’re playing, that’s what we’ve been doing. Perhaps we need to change a few things to fit the strengths of our people. Maybe we can do a better job of that.
“We’re in the laboratory right now trying to find the right mix. Lot of new players, a lot of young players. Not a lot of offseason. We’re not the only defense in pro football that is struggling at times. But we have the right stuff. We have enough talent. We’re going to make some changes and hopefully, we have some better results.”
The Raiders hope to come up with some answers before facing quarterback Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Cleveland Browns on the road on Sunday.
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