Raiders defense forced to adjust with Branch injured
The Raiders are tied for the league lead with nine sacks, but they haven’t forced a single turnover. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
The Raiders rank fifth in total defense, fifth in pass defense and first in sacks.
Something, however, is missing. They’re a Top 10 defense in every major category, yet dead last in takeaways. The Raiders don’t have a single one.
“I’m used to having a couple myself at this point,” free safety Charles Woodson said. “That’s what a great defense does. You stop people from moving the ball, you get off the field on third down and you get turnovers. We haven’t gotten any over the first couple weeks, and that’s something we’ve got to start doing.”
The Raiders have limited yardage with open-field tackles, an excellent pass rush and solid secondary play. But, if we’re following Woodson’s diagram for great defense, the Raiders are 1-for-3.
They haven’t forced a turnover and they’ve struggled getting off the field, ranking 28th with a 48.15 percent third-down conversion.
That not great, but the Raiders aren’t worried.
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“That’ll come with us continuing to get 11 guys to fly around the football,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “If we can continue to get to the quarterback, we’ll get sack fumbles and strips down the field. The only job of a defense is to get the ball back to the offense without points being scored. We have to do a better job of that.”
Turnovers will come with continuing to play good defense. In fact, that’s a major part of the defensive philosophy Allen studied with the New Orleans Saints. Giving up yards is okay, if big plays become turnovers instead of points.
Takeaways aren’t created on command, but can be scouted.
“You certainly try for them. Definitely,” Woodson said. “That’s why you watch all the film, so you can pinpoint places where you can make a big move and make a big play. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it. Hopefully we get some pressure on him, get him moving around and put ourselves in position to make a big play.”
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There is zero reason to panic, or even assume there’s something wrong. It is, after all, the start of Week 3. The Raiders defense is off to a good start, not a perfect one.
“We have to get the ball,” Woodson said. “Not to have any fumbles, not to have any interceptions has been tough.”