Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

September 5, 2008
Examining the run defense (again)

ALAMEDA -- OK, we can all agree statistics can be manipulated.

What might look like good run defense could really be very bad pass defense, hence no one ever tries to run on that "good" run defense.

So is the Raiders' much-maligned run defense a matter of numbers being twisted or fact?

Linebacker Kirk Morrison has long maintained the Raiders weren't "bad" against in the run, even though they ranked 31st out of 32 teams, allowing 145.9 yards a game.

"When you actually break down what we did last year, it wasn't that they were getting five yards, five yards, five yards, 10 yards," Morrison said. "It would be one-yard gain, two-yard gain, three-yard gain, 40. The big run is what made the numbers a little bit skewed."

This what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had to say about the run defense:

"Stats, you can do anything you want with them. If you get leads, obviously, you're going to face more passing game. We haven't had that luxury around here lately. As always every year, we're making a big emphasis on stopping everything they do, run and pass. We got players we're making more responsible for their gaps. We got real good tacklers in the secondary that's going to help. Our linebackers are coming on. "

So what do the numbers say besides the Raiders were 31st last year?

*Opponents ran the ball 486 times against the Raiders, the fifth most attempts in the NFL.

*The Raiders allowed a league-worst 4.8 yards a carry.

*The Raiders allowed 24 rushing touchdowns, most in the NFL.

*The Raiders allowed 121 rushing first downs, third most in the league.

*The Raiders allowed 18 runs of 20 yards or more, tied with Denver for the most in the NFL.

*The Raiders were one of only three teams (Chicago and Cincinnati) to allow five runs of 40 yards or more.

Only Miami (409) saw fewer passes attempted against its defense than Oakland (439). Miami is also the only team to rank lower than Raiders in run defense.

What does all this mean?

*The Raiders had A LOT of problems stopping the run. Even without allowing some of the big runs, it's apparent there was an issue with gap discipline and tackling. It's hard to argue many of those stats as being a result of not always having the lead.

*Because teams were able to run a lot, it did lead to a lot more yards. That can be attributed to teams not passing because if they had a lead, it was only smart to run the ball and eat up clock, knowing the Raiders didn't have the ability to strike back quickly. It was also because the Raiders never consistently stopped running backs. There's no excuse for letting Ron Dayne gauge you up the middle.

*Even if the game was close, teams were more likely to keep trying to run, figuring the defense would eventually breakdown.

If the Raiders can score points, the Raiders run defense will improve automatically. When Rich Gannon was putting up all those points in 2002, the Raiders were third against the run. After all, this isn't college and teams can't make up a deficit quick with an option offense.

And even back in the day, Tom Osborne threw it sometimes, didn't he?

But even if the offense improves, the Raiders still need to tackle better and maintain gap discipline.

Because it won't matter if the Raiders score 30 points because all the opposition can always run its way back into the game.

Then there would be disputing the numbers.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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