In recent weeks, the overall play of the Oakland Raiders on defense gives fans hope. Collectively, defenders have not allowed for a 300-yard performance by in two consecutive games. Something that not occurring in four seasons. Lock step with this uptick has been an improvement in the overall play of the linebacker corps. If the Raiders are going to make it to the finish line, they will have to do so with the help of a linebacker group that can be hit or miss this season but is certainly trending up.
After stepping in and playing every snap in his first game with the Raiders, some of the luster of Bowman’s arrival had worn off. The defense had taken a step back, which was not his fault but was discouraging. Yet, in the last two weeks, Bowman has reclaimed his status as the veteran defender who is always around the ball. From notching the team’s first interception a week ago to collecting the first turnover of the game, Bowman has become the leader the defenses has needed for a couple seasons now.
He led the team in tackles each of the last two games, notching a total of 16 with a tackle-for-loss and a pass deflection. He still has coverage issues when dropping deep, but he still shows up everywhere.
After drawing many fans’ ire at his response to Ken Norton Jr.’s firing, Bruce Irvin has been on a tear. In the last two weeks, he has posted 11 tackles (six TFLs) and three sacks and a forced fumble as well as helping provide some balance on the line. Irvin has done it all on the strong side as both an edge setter and a supplementary pass rusher.
At this point, he rarely has games where he takes over with flashy stats. Most of his bes tefforts will not look like his game against Ereck Flowers. Instead, they will often feature four or five tackles with maybe a sack or two sprinkled in. He is not being asked to drop back nearly as frequently and is only being asked to play the flat when he does. While the Norton dismissal disappointed him, Pagano seems to push the correct buttons with him.
The rookie , playing arguably the most difficult position, Morrow has performed about as expected. He is consistently around the football on both good and bad plays for the defense. To Morrow’s credit, he is doing a better job of keeping plays in front of him. Also, his run support improves slowly but surely. Occasionally, he arrives late to play. In addition, safety let him down over the top, but overall he hovers around average. With 12 tackles in two games his productivity has been increasing and it may have something to do with the
Pagano change as well. If he can take another step to quell the issues with opposing tight ends, the unit can make the leap.