Raiders

Where does Raiders defense need most improvement? 'Maybe it's a tie...'

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AP

Where does Raiders defense need most improvement? 'Maybe it's a tie...'

ALAMEDA – The Raiders defense has a magic number entering every game. If the opponent hits or falls below the mark, the Raiders should win.

“Our goal is always 17 points,” cornerback TJ Carrie said. “If we hold them to or under, then we feel our offense can do enough to pull out a victory.”

That’s sound logic. It hasn’t produced results. The defense has held an opponent to 17 or less three times. The Raiders are 1-2.

The Raiders have also given up 24 or more in three straight games. They’re 2-1 in those.

At some point, the Raiders must start playing consistently complimentary football. They got some of it in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over Miami. They’re going to need a lot more should the Raiders go on the run required to legitimately get back in the playoff hunt.

The offense must find consistency down the stretch. The defense must improve to get point totals back down.

They’ll try and do so during this bye week and in work leading towards a Nov. 18 showdown with New England.

Del Rio believes his Raiders must do better at the basics.

“When we start (tackling better), and then getting off on third down more regularly, I think you take a big jump,” Del Rio said on Monday. “To me, what it comes down to is the tackling on the back end that has really been poor. You can’t play great defense without being great tacklers. That’s probably the biggest area for us.

“Maybe it’s a tie between the tackling and the turnovers, being able to catch the ball and being able to leverage and tackle better. Those are kind of the two keys in helping us take a big step forward defensively.”

The Raiders were so good creating game-changing plays last year. They had 30 turnovers forced in 16 games. Now they’re also dead last with six total takeaways. They don’t have an interception through nine games. But you know all that.

Defensive backs do, too. They’ve come close to interceptions, without locking one down.

It isn’t maddening, yet. But that unit would like to start squashing drives early, or saving them late.

That would help unfavorable numbers.

The Raiders rank No. 26 in total defense with 361.1 yards allowed per game. They’re No. 22 against the pass, No. 21 against the run and No. 21 with 23.8 points allowed per game.

Turnovers are one way to change games. Sacks are another. They aren’t the only way to impact the passer. Pressures and hits can also caused game-changing plays.

Sacks can be drive killers.

The Raiders had an NFL low 25 sacks last year despite Khalil Mack rushing off one edge. The NFL’s defensive player of the year had 11. Bruce Irvin had seven off the other flank. Nobody else had three.

A robust interior pass rush was supposed to increase pressure on the quarterback.

This year’s pass rush is more diverse, but it isn’t more productive. The Raiders have 13 sacks through nine games. Only Tampa Bay has less.

Mack has 4.5. Mario Edwards Jr. has 3.5. Irvin has 2.5. That isn’t enough from the Silver and Black’s heavy hitters.

“I am a little surprised we haven’t been a little more effective with it,” Del Rio said. “We’ve got good pass rushers, we need to have a little tighter coverage so that the quarterback has to hold the ball. If he’s able to get it out on time and comfortably, throw it in front of us and then make guys miss and get big plays, then why would they hold onto it to look down the field? That’s where I say leverage and tackling is huge for our defense.”

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

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USATSI

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

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USATSI

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”