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Oakland Raiders: Why the Silver and Black should keep defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

It is pretty easy to list off the reasons why the Oakland Raiders should not keep defensive coördinator Ken Norton Jr. A recent Just Blog Baby article makes a compelling argument for firing Norton Jr.

Additionally, head coach Jack Del Rio called out the defense it in his closing press conference.

“There were far too many explosive plays allowed this year, whether it be run or pass,” Del Rio said. “That’s, you know, that’s an area that must be addressed. That might be the number one thing that we must do better going into 2017.”

Not to mention, the Raiders gave up the most yards per play in the league. They also gave up the 13th most points per game. Oakland ranked No. 4 in penalty yards for defense. The Raiders also gave up the No. 10 most rushing yards per game and the 9th most passing yards per game. They also finished last in the league with 25 sacks.

All that said, Ken Norton Jr. deserves to keep his job for another season.

Placing the blame on him for the poor defensive play is irresponsible. Norton Jr. is merely the figurehead, coordinator and collaborator. He is not out there to execute plays, although he did once roam NFL fields.

Now, let’s look at why Ken Norton Jr. should stay another season in Oakland.

Defense played well in stretches

We all remember the horrible outings versus the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. It has also been cited that the Raiders gave up more points than any other team during the third quarter.

However, the Raiders played well in stretches. Quarterback Derek Carr led many fourth quarter comebacks but the defense put him in a position to do that. The defense clinched victories versus the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.

Not to mention, the team led the league in turnover differential. That is precisely the culture Norton Jr. was supposed to bring with him from the Seattle Seahawks.

It is not all Ken Norton Jr.’s fault

Ken Norton Jr. earned some criticism for his play calling this season. There were times where he needed to blitz and didn’t. There were other times he made questionable coverage calls.

However, Norton was not out there missing tackles on big plays. He was not out there holding receivers and committing pass interference. That is execution.

Something all the Raiders defenders could have done better.

Not to mention, Jack Del Rio is a defensive mind. Therefore, I’d put some blame on him too. I’m sure Del Rio hired Norton Jr. as a first-time coordinator so the defensive head coach could still have some say in the day-to-day operations of the defense.

I don’t want to overlook the Raiders terrible defensive standings. However, let’s remember this team played with a ton of defensive linemen and linebackers. On-field adjustments are difficult when you go through three starting middle linebackers and play callers via Ben Heeney, Cory James and Pat Riley Jr.

It is hard to do anything when your interior players are either true defensive ends or out of shape. Denico Autry, Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Darius Latham, and Stacy McGee all took turns playing injured and inconsistent.

As for coverage, the Raiders lost their nickel corner to injured reserve and went through three starting strong safeties. You can blame play calling for poor coverage assignments, but corners David Amerson and Sean Smith are paid well enough. They should cover anyone via any scheme.

I’m not saying Ken Norton Jr. doesn’t deserve any blame, but he does not deserve all of it. This team featured new starters at both safeties, corner, two linebackers spots and two defensive line positions. Give Norton Jr. a break. These guys should improve with playoff experience and another year in the scheme.

There is no better replacement

Don’t give me your Wade Phillips rumors. No disrespect to him, he is a great football mind.. However, the Raiders need a coördinator who is more connected with their players like Norton Jr.

The only name that might be better is Gus Bradley, who also has a Seahawks pedigree.

Remember, Del Rio has maintained that he is building a winning culture. Part of that culture includes updating the facilities and playing music at practice. Another part of it is winning.

Phillips may know about defense and winning, but they do not know about this new Raiders culture. Del Rio does not need the old heads stepping on his toes.

Further, Norton Jr. and Del Rio played and coached together. Entering a third season with the Raiders, the duo will develop more chemistry and make better adjustments next season.

The team could roll the dice on an internal candidate, but you’re still talking about a team adjusting to a new leader and play caller. Let the defense continue to develop under Norton Jr. in 2017.

The defense will improve in 2017

I get the frustration. The defense did not make a sack in the last three games. They failed to rise to the occasion in the last regular season game versus the Denver Broncos and against the Texans.They also did not recover a couple of fumbles versus Houston.

Plus, the defense did not grow enough in year two of Norton Jr. This is especially true when you factor in offseason additions like draft picks Jihad Ward, Karl Joseph and Cory James and free agents Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson.

Still, championships are not won in free agency. The Raiders should finally address the middle of their defense with the No. 24 pick in the NFL Draft.

Expect them to take a linebacker and/or defensive tackle with the first couple of picks, like I’ve said for three seasons.

Del Rio even admitted that the team did not get enough push in the middle via ESPN. He called out the whole defensive tackle group for not being factors this season.

Therefore, this team will get better when they get some consistency at middle backer and defensive tackle.

Plus, the Raiders should see Aldon Smith finally reinstated. That could allow Bruce Irvin or Khalil Mack to concentrate more on linebacker duties.

Further, Smith’s presence on the edge may slide Jihad Ward or Mario Edwards Jr. into full-time defensive tackle play. Both players could use some bulk to better anchor against the run, but they both have the god-given traits to terrorize guards in a pass rush situation.

Additionally, I expect Joseph and James to improve with another year in the system.

In the end, I believe Ken Norton Jr. deserves some blame for the poor defensive play. However, firing Norton Jr. will not solve all the Raiders problems. Give him one more season so this unit can develop together.

Good teams do not fire their defensive coordinators. The Raiders are finally a perennial playoff team and firing Norton would only set them back.

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Oakland Raiders: The one thing to improve versus the Tennesse Titans

The Oakland Raiders and Tennesse Titans had even odds at the beginning of the week. Now, the week three game moved in the Titans’ favor, according to Silver and Black Pride.

One of the biggest reasons the Raiders could lose to the Titans is the defense.

How bad is the Oakland Raiders defense?

Here are some alarming numbers about the Raiders defense.

  • The Raiders are the first team to have allowed more than 500 yards in each of their first two games, since the 1970 merger, per ESPN.
  • The Raiders rank 23rd among NFL defenses in yards per carry with 4.5 yards per carry average. They also give up 404 passing yards per game.
  • Opposing teams completed 54 of 76 passes for 808 yards, seven touchdowns (most in the NFL) and only one interception. *
  • Oakland ranks No. 29 in opponent’s completion percentage (71.1 percent) and 32nd in opponent’s passer rating (131.4). *
  • Football Outsiders ranks the Raiders 30th in defense-adjusted value over average, which calculates the Raiders’ defense to an average schedule of opponents. Oakland is last in pass defense and 28th in rush defense according to this metric.
  • The Raiders rank 30th in sacks, with only two. Both came on the first drive in Weeks One and Two. Jihad Ward, Shilique Calhoun, Denico Autry, Williams, Justin Ellis, and Stacy McGee have combined for 10 pressures between them, according to PFF.
  • Overall, the Raiders interior linemen grade poorly by PFF. Ellis ranks 58th among defensive interior lineman. Autry is tied for 60th. Darius Latham ranks 92nd, Ward ranks 101st, and Dan Williams ranks 108.
  • The Raiders pressure QBs on just 21.8 percent of opponent’s dropbacks in two games, which is below the league average of 31 percent in 2016.
  • Oakland can still not cover the tight ends. The Falcons tight ends caught 10 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

*Stats via CBS Sports Article.

The Major Key to beating the Titans

Before we all discount the Raiders defense, let’s remember it is two games. Granted, it is two horrible games. However, Oakland has too much talent and wise minds on defense not to produce.

Remember, the Raiders brought in a lot of changing parts via the NFL Draft and free agency. It was foolish to expect the Raiders to not have growing pains. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this as he took some responsibility for the poor performance too.

Either way, the Raiders main key to victory remains the defense. Anyone who watched either game versus the Saints or Falcons can tell you that. Atlanta used Tevin Coleman and DeVonta Freeman to expose the middle of Oakland’s defense. The Saints relied on their crafty receivers.

Against the Titans, the Raiders defense must drastically improve.

Tennessee already proved they could move the ball in the third preseason game. Derek Henry and DeMarcco Murray could both bring outstanding fantasy performances versus the Raiders.

Not to mention, the Raiders still struggle covering the tight end. Now, Oakland faces one of the league’s best in Delanie Walker.

Further, Marcus Mariota is slowly becoming a dynamic player as he has completed 67 percent of his passes for four touchdowns, 509 yards, and two interceptions.

Ultimately, this game will come down to the Oakland making a play on defense. Last year’s matchup was a single score victory for the Raiders. Both teams improved since then, so it should be an interesting matchup.

On offense, Oakland has proven they can play with anyone. Quarterback Derek Carr lead the team on a game-winning drive in week one. He has only been sacked one time while finding a cast of different receivers.

The running game has been balanced. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington both serve as the explosive change of pace backs behind Latavius Murray.

Therefore, do not expect the offensive game plan to change much.

Defensively, the Raiders will change it by integrated rookies Corey James and Karl Joseph. I’d also like to see more of Shilique Calhoun and Dan Williams.

Either way, their defensive effort can not get much worse. This is the biggest key to victory for the 1-1 Raiders.

Oakland will try to turn their defensive effort around at 10 A.M. PST on Sunday, Sept. 25 versus the Tennessee Titans.

 

 

Oakland Raiders Notes: Cory James, Karl Joseph, & Ken Norton Jr.

Cory James

The Raiders will play rookie Corey James more on Sunday versus Tennessee, according to CSN Bay Area.

Starter Ben Heeney put up mixed results, but head coach Jack Del Rio said his backup Cowser is a ball magnent.

“It took some time to grow on me since OTAs and everything, but I think I’m getting more and more comfortable with it,” James said. “…I’m still learning, still working to get more comfortable with recognizing formations and things like that, but I still need work there. Playing and knowing the plays, I am pretty comfortable with that.”

As for how much James will play versus the Titans, Del Rio said there was no benefit to declaring the team’s plans.

Karl Joseph

Speaking of rookies getting more plenty time, first-round draft pick Karl Joseph should make his NFL debut.

Del Rio said he is impressed with Joseph’s attitude and overall work ethic via the Raiders.com

“I think the health issue is really kind of behind him now.” Del Rio said. “I feel good about that. I feel good about the way he’s preparing. Now we just look forward to all of us going out and playing well on Sunday.”

Ken Norton Jr.

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. took some of the blame for the Raiders’ poor defensive outings in two games, via SF Gate.

“ I’m accountable for it. We have to work harder, work better and we expect to come out of this.” Norton said.

The defensive coordinator said he still believes the team can turn it around.

“Again, no one said it was going to be easy. You’re going to have adverse times and those adverse times really reveal us, reveal who you are, and I think that the team has come together, come close.” Norton said. “You can tell the guys really care. No one wants to play as bad as we’ve played.”

Check out offensive notes for the week here.

Raiders Rants: D.J. Hayden, Mario Edwards, Karl Joseph, Matt McGloin & more

The Oakland Raiders finished minicamp a couple of weeks ago. Here is my take on the biggest headlines since then.

Matt McGloin

Raiders QB Matt McGloin started minicamp as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Connor Cook.

My Take: It should not come as a surprise. McGloin was drafted by the previous regime. He is a game manager at best. Let’s see what we got in Cook. All reports indicate he looks good.

Karl Joseph

  • Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said this secondary is more talented than last season’s crop.
  • Norton Jr. said Raiders rookie Karl Joseph is a stick of dynamite, because of his explosiveness via film.

My Take: Norton Jr.’s comments are in line with what everyone has said about the Raiders secondary. However, they need to get healthy. We gotta see it on the field, because they haven’t played together yet due to injuries.

D.J. Hayden

Speaking of the Raiders secondary, head coach Jack Del Rio said D.J. Hayden had a good spring. He said he was excited about Hayden’s development.

My Take: I’ve made it a point to defend Hayden. I’m glad the Raiders are doing so as well. It is clear he will have the first shot at winning the slot corner position.

Max McCaffrey

My Take: Max McCaffrey made a name for himself this spring. That is a lot considering he is the son of a Broncos great and brother to a Stanford great. McCaffrey should be one of the leads to breakout as an UDFA this year. Think Seth Roberts, Andre Holmes, and Rod Streater mold.

Read more on dude here.

Pro Football Focus

  • The popular stats website graded Khalil Mack as the No. 6 overall player in the league.
  • Other Raiders like Amari Cooper and Derek Carr also made the list.

My Take: Shout out to the Raiders finally catching some respect.

Kick Returners

  • Apparently, the Raiders will keep the status quo at the returner positions.
  • T.J. Carrie is expected to keep his job as the punt returner, while Taiwan Jones will return kickoffs.

My Take: No surprise here. Both Jones and Carrie could see reduced roles at their normal positions. Carrie is no longer a starter at CB and Jones could lose his spot as RB No. 2. Both dudes are athletes who should make great contributions on special teams still.

Mario Edwards Jr.

Mario Edwards participated in minicamp. His status was questionable with an undisclosed neck injury.

My Take: Good for Edwards. He should breakout with more talent around him on defense. He balled as a rookie, until injuries cut his season short.

 

 

 

 

Raiders Rants: Sean Smith, Jack Del Rio and John Madden

Check out the latest headlines and notes with my take on the news and issues facing the Oakland Raiders.

Sean Smith

  • Earlier this week, Sean Smith spoke to the media about the Raiders secondary reinventing itself.
  • Smith said, David Amerson has impressed him with his size and athleticism.
  • As for DJ Hayden, Smith said he believes Hayden can turn his career around.

I hope Smith is right about Hayden. It would be nice if the Raiders could salvage the 2013 first round pick. Hayden’s skill set fits the slot corner role. If Hayden wants to make the roster he must beat out TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe at the Nickel spot.

Raiders schedule

  • Pro Football Focus put the Raiders at 11-5.
  • ESPN also has the Raiders favored in every game except 4.
  • Raiders will travel the most miles in the league.
  • Oakland faces the toughest second half of the schedule, and the easiest first half.

Earlier this offseason, Vegas had the Raiders record at 8 wins. Now, the Raiders are expected to do a lot better. This is the first time in years that the Raiders have gotten this much preseason hype. Hopefully, they will live up to expectations when the time comes.

Ken Norton Jr. on Ali

  • The great Muhammad Ali died last week, and Ken Norton Jr., whose father fought Ali three-times, opened up about the champ.
  • Norton Jr. talked about Ali helping out his family and being intertwined.
  • Ali used to do magic for Norton Jr.

It is always great to hear about Ali. Norton Jr. brought an interesting perspective because he lived during Ali’s time. Ali also helped his family make it as Heavyweight Champion.

Relocation update

  • NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell encouraged the Oakland mayor to meet with Oakland investors lead by Ronnie Lott.
  • Earlier this week, a Vegas strip club offered the Raiders free limo rides and lapdances.
  • In the same article, former player Donte Stallworth said any Vegas team would lose every game.

First, I am glad that there is some news on the Oakland front. Second, I agree with Stallworth that Vegas is a unique party area. Sin City is not the greatest place for an NFL team.

Mainstream attention

  • The NFL is finally taking notice of the Raiders with their Mack Mondays and Woodson Wednesdays.
  • Speaking of attention, two Raiders will participate in Family Feud

The Raiders are actually newsworthy? We don’t want your mainstream hype or bandwagon fans. Period.

Jack Del Rio

  • The Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio finally joined Twitter.
  • Del Rio posted some cool picks of the media and the team.
  • Oakland’s head coach said he wanted to get up with the times.

Congrats coach! Welcome to Twitter.

John Madden

  • Raiders great John Madden missed his annual Bocce Tournament.
  • Madden is rehabbing a new hip.
  • The Raiders Hall of Fame coach underwent open heart surgery earlier this year.

Prays for Madden. For reals. Let’s hope one of the greatest gets back to full strength.