Raiders key matchup No. 2: Miles Burris vs. Andy Dalton


Raiders key matchup No. 2: Miles Burris vs. Andy Dalton

Editor's note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Bengals matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Paul Brown StadiumRaiders LB Miles Burris vs. Bengals QB Andy DaltonTale of the tape
Burris (56): 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, rookie season, San Diego State
Dalton (14): 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, second season, TCUCINCINNATI -- Miles Burris and Andy Dalton used to match wits in the Mountain West Conference so it's not like the Raiders rookie linebacker and Bengals second-year quarterback need any feeling-out time.Not that Dalton, runner-up to Carolina's Cam Newton a year ago for NFL offensive rookie of the year, would even want a meet-and-greet with the active Burris, who sacked Dalton in 2010. Dalton has already seen enough film of the Raiders' porous defense of late to know what to expect."Teams have hit some big plays on them," Dalton told Cincinnati reporters this week. "They have given up a lot of points. Our big thing is, we've just got to come out and play our game. We can't stress too much about that stuff, we've just got to come out and play. So for us, just like these teams, when we get our chances, we've got to hit them. That's going to be the emphasis."But when we get those chances, we've got to hit them.Dalton, who has passed for 2,559 yards and 20 touchdowns and has a passer rating of 92.7, is onto something here.In Oakland's three-game losing streak, in which the Raiders have been outscored by a combined 135-69, they have surrendered 31 "explosive" plays that have yielded eights touchdowns -- 19 passes (four TDs) and 12 runs (four TDs).The Raiders have had 23 explosive plays of their own in the three-game skid with just two TDs -- 20 passes (two TDs) and three runs.The Raiders define an explosive play as a pass that gains at least 16 yards andor a run that gains at least 12 yards.In the three-game stretch before the losing streak -- against Atlanta, Kansas City and Jacksonville -- Oakland gave up a relatively-mere 14 such plays -- nine passes, five runs -- with no TDs on those plays.It would not be fair to pin this on Burris, the Raiders' fourth-round draft pick who assumed the starting weakside linebacker job when Aaron Curry's knees betrayed him in training camp. After all, Burris' 51 tackles rank fourth on the team, and fourth among all rookie outside linebackers in the NFL, and he has a sack with a forced fumble and a pass defensed.Then again, per Pro Football Focus, Burris allowed eight catches for 63 yards with a touchdown the eight times he was targeted in last weekend's 38-17 loss to New Orleans and he also missed two tackles.And with Curry waived on Tuesday, Burris is operating without a net. But he's far from alone.NEWS: Curry out in Oakland
Consider: the Raiders have allowed an NFL-worst 322 points thus far and if the Bengals drop 40 on them Sunday, Oakland will equal the 1973 squad's season total of 175 points allowed ... just in this month of November.There are also multiple senses of irony at work here in that the man Dalton replaced, Carson Palmer, is making his return to the Queen City, while a former Raiders fan favorite is Dalton's backup in Bruce Gradkowski."Coming in, all I knew was that (Palmer) wasn't here and I had to come in and learn a new offense and meet new guys, learn teammates, get used to everything," Dalton said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "Everything with Carson, I wasn't really worried about. I was just kind of focused on me and what I could control."Such as his relationship with Gradkowski, who relieved Dalton earlier this season against Baltimore and led the Bengals to a comeback victory over Cleveland in 2011."It's been great," said Dalton, who played in the Pro Bowl as a rookie. "I'm glad we've had Bruce here since I've been here. He's been a lot of help for me coming in. Just having his experience out there. He's been around awhile. He's a great teammate, a great guy. I'm glad he's in our quarterback room."

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

Why firing Ken Norton Jr. won't solve the Raiders' bigger, deeper problems

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was twice asked about making in-season changes at his Monday press conference.

He wouldn’t rule it out. Del Rio said he would do anything necessary to help the team “win now,” and later said "we're not getting into staff questions this week."

Then he fired Ken Norton Jr. the next day, hoping the dismissal will provide a spark.

It might. More likely, it might not do enough.

It is a shot across the bow at its base, a signal that subpar play won't be tolerated. 

“We played under our talent level,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, “Those things come with consequences.”

New play caller John Pagano has a unique style and knows how to bring creative pressure, disguise a simple play as complex and exploit weak links, but he won’t be using his system this season. He’ll still be working within Norton/Del Rio’s scheme and, more importantly, he’s still playing chess with existing, often inferior pieces. The Raiders understand that, and likely won't judge him on this final stretch alone. 

Why? The defense doesn’t have enough talent in the secondary, the interior defensive line or the inside linebacker corps. That’s not on Norton or Pagano.

Pagano can’t do a thing about an offense struggling mightily to catch passes, block consistently and let plays develop downfield.

The Raiders have some major talent problems, with rush and coverage rarely working together as desired. That, and some uninspired schematics, have produced awful statistics.

The Raiders don’t have an interception, and are the first team to go 10 games without a pick. They’re on track to have the second-worst opposing completion percentage (72.3) and passer rating (113.3) in NFL history, per the Associated Press.

They’re also last in sacks for the second straight year, with just 14 this season despite having reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack.

They're thin because last year's second and third round picks, Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun aren't contributing. This year's draft class had to make an immediate impact, but Gareon Conley played two games, Obi Melifonwu spent eight games on IR and Eddie Vanderdoes as underwhelmed after a promising start.

Highly paid free agents haven't performed well enough, and many could be shown the door.

It’s possible roughly half of the starting lineup doesn’t return next season, with Sean Smith, Reggie Nelson, Bruce Irvin and NaVorro Bowman likely out the door as free agents or roster cuts.

In sum, this isn’t all Norton’s fault.

He was, however, the easiest cut. You can’t fire players en masse during the year, and Pagano was an easy replacement without disrupting the position coaches. Pagano has extensive experience calling plays. He was the then-San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2012-16.

Norton wasn’t an innovative play caller. He was passed over for coordinator jobs while serving as Seattle’s linebackers coach, after Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn were hired as head coaches. Del Rio, who played with Norton in Dallas back from 1989-91, hired Norton shortly after being hired by the Raiders.

The Raiders' defense has never been good under Norton/Del Rio, and Norton was on a hot seat most of last season. It was surprising when Pagano was hired that Norton was retained and allowed to continue despite underwhelming performance.

Norton was immensely popular in the locker room, especially with members of the front seven. Mack and Irvin in particular were Norton guys. Norton and Irvin go way back to Irvin’s Seattle days, where the coach helped the player get and stay on the right path.

That’s why this firing was deeply felt on Tuesday. The players were told in an afternoon meeting, following a walk-through focused on corrections from Sunday’s New England loss.

"The axe came down on everybody," free safety Reggie Nelson said. "Everybody felt it in this building. Players, we love Norton, regardless. Unfortunately, the production wasn't a high standard this year and it's a production league. He's not playing. We are.”

The Raiders are 4-6, and can’t afford to lose many more games. They might need to be perfect down the stretch to avoid a messy tiebreaker situation. That’s a tough ask for a team that’s been woefully inconsistent on both sides. This team was always expected to shoot for the middle defensively and have a potentially great offense score points by the bushel.

The offense has been most disappointing, performing far below its pay grade and talent level. There was no movement on that side of the ball. The Raiders hope, with fingers firmly crossed, this defensive change provide the spark necessary to create turnovers and quarterback pressure than has been lacking in a disastrous season to this point.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Raiders fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr.'s time with the Raiders is up.

With the team underperforming, Oakland has fired Norton as the defensive coordinator, the team announced Tuesday afternoon. John Pagano will handle the play calling duties when the Raiders take on the Broncos this Sunday.

Head coach Jack Del Rio issued the following statement regarding the news:

“After careful thought, I have made a difficult decision to part ways with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator. I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience. I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”

The Raiders defense under Norton this season ranks 26th in the NFL in yards allow per game (367.0), is allowing 24.7 points per game and has yet to record an interception through 10 games.

"We played under our talent level. Those things come with consequences," defensive lineman Justin Ellis told reporters shortly after the news broke.

"The axe fell on all of us. We love Coach Norton. We didn’t want to see this happen," safety Reggie Nelson said.

Norton joined Del Rio's staff prior to the 2015 season.