Raiders now blitzing like never before


Raiders now blitzing like never before

ALAMEDA -- The Silver and Black elephant in the room is starting to get noticed. And, some might say, poked.There's no doubt the late Al Davis eschewed blitzing. He wanted straight man-to-man defense with his cornerbacks playing bump-and-run and the front seven dominating enough to apply pressure without any gadget plays.Even when blitzing worked, as it did with aplomb two years ago against Philadelphia and a confounded Donovan McNabb, there were rumblings that not everyone in the building was happy. Imagine the reaction if it had backfired.

Even departed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha questioned the Raiders' defensive scheme ... after signing a big-money deal to play man defense.Blitzing was an anomaly, a crutch, of sorts, was the thinking upstairs. And while the team might install such packages during a game week, rarely did it ever surface in a game.That philosophy, though, has changed within the past two weeks, it seems.Consider this from STATS LLC: including run plays, the Raiders blitzed an average of 8 12 times per game through their first four games this season. In their last two games, against Houston and Cleveland, the Raiders blitzed an average of 28 12 times per game.Shocking, right? As if the numbers didn't speak for themselves, first-year coach Hue Jackson added some spice."I think it's been pretty vanilla here in the past," Jackson said, "and I think (opponents) have kind of known how to attack us."Some might see that as a shot at the old Xs and Os mantra in Silver and Blackdom. Others might see it as a long-awaited evolution.Just win by any scheme necessary, baby?"We're definitely more colorful now that we're not as vanilla, we're not as predictable as we've been in years past," cornerback Stanford Routt said. "That's the main thing, try to confuse the quarterback and get him to make decisions and reads in the actual play, rather than already being able to make a pre-snap read and determination where he wants to go with the ball."Football is a game of chess not checkers. Anytime you're out there being predictable or playing into the other team's hands, as far as what they can expect from you, you're not putting yourself in the best chance to win the game. Any time you can go and throw a wrinkle in there, obviously you want to do that. Because if I know what you're going to do before you do it, your chances to win are not that good. Obviously it's a good thing to do."It might not be fair to say previous defensive coordinators were hamstrung by the Davis Doctrine. And it might be uncouth or even blasphemous to say there is a certain freedom in defensive play-calling now.So what about that Silver and Black elephant again? Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is center ring with it, flipping it some peanuts."We have a very aggressive d-coordinator," safety Mike Mitchell said. "He likes to get after it and apply pressure. When you look at the way our team is built, we have the athletes to play so much man and we have the biggest, fastest linebackers in the league, so why not send them? It puts pressure on the quarterback and we have the athletes to cover. I think it goes hand in hand."For years, teams knew how to scout the Raiders because they would play a certain base defense and little else. And while it drew derision in many corners in recent years, it also drew praise for sticking to the brashness of the whole, 'You know what we run, so beat us.'Now?"Last week you had Colt McCoy come up to us and say, 'Man, I thought you guys were going to play more man,'" Mitchell said of the Browns' signal caller. "It's good when the quarterback says that because we are known for so much man coverage. But when we can throw wrinkles with some of our fire zone and other things, it gives them different looks."They're not going to know what to expect. I honestly, truly believe we have the best athletes in the league. We have the capability to do everything our d-coordinator wants us to do. As long as we continue to mix up our looks, we'll give quarterbacks a lot of trouble."On the third play of the Cleveland game, safety Matt Giordano picked up the first sack of his seven-year career when he dropped McCoy for a 10-yard loss on third-and-nine. On a blitz."I look forward to it, whenever I get the chance to blitz," Giordano said. "I love blitzing."Especially when you have the freedom to do so, and it works.

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain


Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”