While most people are pointing to the offensive side of the ball as the biggest reason for the Oakland Raiders failures, the defense has been perhaps as big of a culprit.
Granted, the Oakland (2-3) offense has looked like a shell of last year's quick strike attack. The Raiders defense, however, was a critical reason for the team winning its first conference title since 1983.
Oakland ranked No. 22 against the run in 2001 but improved to No. 3 last season. The Raiders only defensive performance that even remotely resembled last year's success was a season-opening 25-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Oakland particularly shut down running back Eddie George. The Raiders held the Titans to 76 yards on 28 carries.
Since then, however, the opposing teams have opened up running lanes like a hospitality suite. The opposition has run the ball 152 times for 741 yards, good for a 4.9 average per carry.
Teams appear to be amassing most of their yardage on the perimeter in an effort to run away from defensive tackles John Parrella and Dana Stubblefield. Instead, Raider opponents are taking their chances with rookie defensive end Tyler Brayton.
The Raiders have since benched starting defensive end DeLawrence Grant, who showed some promise last season but has not sustained that success. Grant, like most of his teammates, played poorly in a 31-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Oakland's inability to stop the run might have an indirect effect on its offensive struggles because teams are averaging over 34 minutes of possession time against Oakland. Many people might say time of possession is an overrated statistic. Well, if the difference is, for example 30:10 to 29-50 it's of little issue. If it's 34 minutes for one team and 26 for the other, that's over half of one quarter.
You need further evidence? In 2003, teams that accumulate 35 or more minutes of possession time in a regulation game are 16-4.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org