OAKLAND -- Yeah, you could say the Raiders' much-maligned (and deservedly so) defense showed up Sunday against Jacksonville.Especially in the second half and overtime of Oakland's 26-23 victory.Consider: the Raiders limited the Jaguars to 54 yards of offense after halftime, and held them to 0-for-8 on third-down conversions in that same timeframe, while getting all three of their sacks."I smelled blood," said cornerback Joselio Hanson, "and we jumped on them."More to the point, Hanson jumped on the ball in overtime when defensive end Lamarr Houston stripped it from Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts III on the third play of overtime."Oh, man, there's linemen down there, there's tight ends, trying to rip it out," Hanson said of the ball. "I was holding it like it was my baby."On the play, the Jaguars were facing a 3rd and 20 from their own 9-yard line when Chad Henne hit Shorts coming across the middle from the left. Houston reached up and ripped the ball out. Call it another "hustle play" for the D-lineman, who ran nearly the length of the field in Denver last month to recover a fumble by Denver's Demaryius Thomas.The Raiders had the ball on the Jacksonville 21-yard line and two plays later, Sebastian Janikowski's 40-yard field goal ended it.But what about that hustle play by Houston again?"Yes, it's guys closing to the ball," Houston said. "The wide receiver wasn't paying attention to me and I was just running like I was coached, and I ended up making a great play."A week earlier, Hanson had the Raiders' first interception of the year in Atlanta."That's film study," Hanson said. "That's just having the will to make a play on that one. The fumble recovery today was running to the ball. We preach that. All 11 people running to the ball. The guy got stripped and I happened to be there and jumped on it."That's how he got that strip. We try to preach that here and be able to do that every game. I think we'll be a real good defense if we continue."The Jaguars lost their star running back after two plays as Maurice Jones-Drew went down with an ankle injury. And quarterback Blaine Gabbert was gone after being hurt when Tommy Kelly drove him into the ground on a sack that was called back by Kelly being offsides in the second quarter.So yeah, you would hope the Raiders defense would step up, right?"We matched up closer on our coverage and let the front four get after them with pressure," said free safety-turned cornerback Michael Huff. "As long as we buy our front four a little bit of time they will get after him. We just played closer in coverage."If we play Raider football for a whole game, we see how good we can be, how well we can play. The main thing is being consistent from start to finish. If we play our game we can be top 10."Beating the one-win Jaguars should be a good enough start, though.
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”