Why the Raiders couldn’t get sacks and how to fix it

I was listening to an episode of the MMQB: 10 Things podcast from a few weeks ago and decided to write about one of their conversations on the Oakland Raiders. In the episode, the hosts, Gary Gramling and Andy Benoit, did nothing but answer questions from fans.

One of those questions was from a Raiders fan who asked what Oakland can do to address the pass rush.

Gramling noted that the Raiders suffered from a lack of coverage sacks since the secondary wasn’t very good. When you can’t cover, quarterbacks don’t have to hold onto the ball very long and getting sacks becomes a lot harder.

But it was what Benoit said that really intrigued me:

They don’t have a lot of interior pass rushers in Oakland and they’re not a big blitzing defense which means you know who you have to block: the two guys on the edge… So you don’t get pressure up the middle and you’re not a big blitzing defense. Not only now are you limited in where your sacks and pass rush comes from, but the offense knows you’re limited and they can cater their pass protections accordingly. The Raiders were, just as a pass rush… were schematically a little easy to handle in pass protection this year.

So there are a few things worth noting in what Benoit said. First off, he and Gramling pointed out what we already knew: The secondary and interior pass rush were not very good for Oakland. This is something that’s been beaten to death as the offseason has rolled on.

But what caught my attention was his discussion of the fact that the Raiders don’t blitz and that makes scheming against their pass rush pretty easy. We all know I’ve had a lot of complaints about Ken Norton, Jr. and this was one of them. The Raiders defense is far too simplistic for the personnel they have. No, it’s not an elite roster but it could have performed better had it been schemed better.

It’s pretty amazing to think about the fact that Khalil Mack won the Defensive Player of the Year award as an edge rusher on the team with the fewest sacks in the league. Of course, added talent will make this defense better but you also have to wonder just how much was left on the field last year.

The idea that a pass rush scheme in the NFL is so simplistic it’s actually easy to game plan or is just mind boggling. The team clearly needs to add talent, but it also needs to scheme better on defense. Hopefully, the addition of John Pagano, a guy known for being able to bring pressure, will help address the simplicity of Oakland’s pass rush scheme.

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