ALAMEDA – The Raiders run defense was the NFL’s worst a few weeks back. That unit has made significant strides over the last three games. They’ve allowed just 2.93 yards per game in that span, second only to the Houston Texans.
The Raiders were at their very best on Sunday, allowing just 39 rushing yards to the Cleveland Browns last week. They held Arizona and San Diego to low per carry averages, but those teams ran well when it mattered most. Cardinals running back Andre Ellington and Chargers rookie Brandon Oliver iced victory with fourth-quarter drives sustained on the ground.
The Raiders run defense is far from perfect, but it’s making strides.
“We had some nice examples of the guys that are activated coming off and knocking the line back and everybody else playing off of that, and that starts with your edge players and our edge players did a pretty good job in that football game,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “So, we’re still looking to improve, we’ve got some things to improve on, but we’re understanding now when we work together, and we play together and we play nasty, within our responsibilities, that we can definitely improve on what has been done and that’s what they’re starting to put on film.”
The Raiders confidence is rising due to improved results.
“We’ve continued to work hard at it, and we’re starting to see improved results,” middle linebacker Miles Burris said. “The game plan’s been good, and we’re executing at a much higher level. That’s been the biggest thing. It’s about 11 guys working together and making one play.”
The Raiders haven’t made major schematic changes to the run defense other than free safety Charles Woodson is play up a bit more. They Raiders are executing better, led by Khalil Mack’s dominance on the edge.
Tarver would like to see improvement in red-zone run defense and in stopping the run late in games.
The Raiders have a tough test ahead on Sunday. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch runs with a unique physical style the Raiders haven’t seen from opponents this season, outside of the New York Jets’ Chris Ivory.
Lynch has 482 yards and three touchdowns on 111 carries, an average of 15 touches per game. That number is lower than usual, but the Seahawks have promised to return to their hard-rushing ways. The Raiders are gaining confidence in their ability to stop the run, yet understand the challenge in front of them on Sunday.
“Lynch is a monster,” Burris said. “He can do it all. He’s powerful and hard to tackle. That said, we’re working hard and, if we can execute the game plan like we did against Cleveland, hopefully we can have another good day stopping the run.”