Colts' Frank Reich 'thankful' NFL suspended Raiders' Vontaze Burfict

Colts' Frank Reich 'thankful' NFL suspended Raiders' Vontaze Burfict

Colts coach Frank Reich and his tight end Jack Doyle have differing opinions on the illegal hit that had Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict ejected Sunday in Oakland's 31-24 win over Indianapolis. 

Doyle, who was on the other end of Burfict's helmet-to-helmet hit, didn't seem too fazed by the violent blow. 

“I just got tackled," Doyle said. "I’m sure it looked worse than it was. I didn’t really feel anything from it. My helmet protected me.”

But the NFL thought otherwise. Burfict was suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season. He's on his way home from London now, his agent told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, and will appeal the suspension. 

Reich, however, seems happy with the league's decision. 

"Just thankful the league took action like it did," Reich told reporters Monday. "When someone does something like that, attacks one of your players, it's not supposed to be in the game. Glad they did what they did. Actions feel very appropriate."

[RELATED: Raiders must quickly adjust with Burfict suspended for year]

Burfict has been fined or suspended multiple times now for illegal hits. The NFL said in a statement that the eight-year pro's "extensive history of rules violations" played a part in their ruling. 

While a season-long suspension, which will be the final 12 regular-season games at least, seems tough but Burfict does have quite the rap sheet.

Why surging Raiders pass rush believes recent success can be sustained

Why surging Raiders pass rush believes recent success can be sustained

The Raiders' pass rush is coming on strong.

Quarterbacks have felt heat in particular during the team’s perfect three-game homestand, with 12 sacks in that span and 10 in the past two contests. That has sent the Raiders soaring up the NFL sack list, now ranked 15th with 25 quarterback takedowns in 10 games.

Part of that is improved talent. Opportunities also are a crucial, oft-forgotten variable in this equation.

“[On Thursday] night against Phillip Rivers, we knew he had to throw it so you’re going to get a chance to rush," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Monday. "We knew they were going to throw it in Detroit, and we get a chance to rush. And at the end of the game yesterday we knew they had to throw it, so you get some opportunities to swing the bat. We’ve been better against the run and we’ve given ourselves more third-down opportunities than we did a year ago.

“But with that being said I think that has something to do with it. And we’re much improved. You know we’ve got better rushers and we’re getting better results.”

The 25 sacks through 10 games is nearly double last year’s total, a positive sign to be sure but no barometer of pass-rush success.

Gruden never misses a moment to say sacks aren’t the only way to measure an impactful pass rush. He prefers the factor grade, which remains internal but includes sacks, pressures, forced fumbles, run stops, edge setting and passes defensed, among other things. Here’s what we can quantify.

The Raiders are hands down better rushing the passer over last year. They have more sacks and quarterback hurries than they had all of 2018, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

Here’s what the Raiders totaled rushing the passer in 2018: 13 sacks, 36 quarterback hits, 97 individual hurries -- 146 total individual pressures.

The Raiders are going to generate much more pressure this time around if the season continues this way.

2019 project pass-rush stats: 40 sacks, 35 quarterback hits, 190 individual hurries -- 265 total individual pressures

As we’ve already said, 2018’s a bad gauge of competence in this effort. This year’s numbers project to be better than 2017, when the Raiders had Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin leading the charge. They would come in just under 2016, the team’s last playoff season, except in sacks.

2017 stats: 36 sacks, 49 hits, 164 individual hurries -- 249 total individual pressures
2016 stats: 27 sacks, 50 hits, 202 individual hurries -- 279 total individual pressures

The Raiders have surged into the backfield behind Clelin Ferrell’s improvement off the edge, Maxx Crosby’s tenacious energy and Benson Mayowa’s efficient efforts. Ferrell and Crosby are rookies and have made great strides in recent weeks. Maurice Hurst has been solid on the interior, and newcomer Dion Jordan brings athleticism and agility to the interior rush.

“We’re finally finding our groove and starting to rush well as a group,” Hurst said. “That’s more important that you think. We’ve had to switch spots and rotate guys around the line. We’ve lost some guys along the way, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’re comfortable with what we’re doing even with new guys coming in. That speaks volumes to how we have been prepared.

"It’s something we have to keep going if we want to keep winning.”

[RELATED: Raiders DE Crosby named AFC Defensive Player of the Week]

Hurst says part of that is individual improvement, but an underrated portion is the line working well together.

“It’s a timing thing and a communication thing, and that’s something we have really picked up over these past few games,” Hurst said. 

Raiders rookie Maxx Crosby named AFC Defensive Player of the Week


Raiders rookie Maxx Crosby named AFC Defensive Player of the Week

The Raiders had three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but they might have found the steal of the three-day event in Round 4. 

Defensive end Maxx Crosby continues to impress, breaking out in a giant way to help the Raiders beat the Bengals 17-10 on Sunday. The rookie recorded four sacks and a forced fumble in the victory to keep Oakland right in the playoff hunt. 

On Wednesday, Crosby was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his huge performance. 

Crosby became just the fourth rookie in NFL history to record four sacks in one game. He came through when needed most, too, with three of his four sacks coming in the fourth quarter.

The Eastern Michigan product joined only former Raider Greg Townsend to do so.

[RELATED: Raiders' entire 2019 NFL draft class making profound impact]

Crosby now has 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three passes defensed and 28 tackles this season. For comparison's sake, he has one more sack than Khalil Mack.

It's safe to say, the Raiders found a keeper in the fourth round.