The Raiders have had another dismal season on offense and that's a prime reason the team is 3-8 heading into this week's game against Pittsburgh. But Oakland's defense hasn't been much better and has been a nagging issue for the team for the past seven years.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha thinks he knows why.
"We're a team that chooses to be who we are regardless of who we're playing against and regardless of the matchups or the things that the other team is going to present," Asomugha said Wednesday. "We've got one way of doing it and that's what we do, and teams can get us into some tough situations. And teams know that, so communication can break down sometimes, just because we'll see what other teams in the league won't see because of the nature of our defense.
"So it doesn't matter what week it is. Stuff can happen in Week 16 if you're not adjusting and you're not adapting to who you're playing against."
Asomugha was taking clear aim at the Raiders' man-to-man defense, a staple of owner Al Davis for decades.
No matter who the defensive coordinator has been or what his philosophy has been, the Raiders have played essentially the same defense with the same coverages and the same attitude toward blitzing – do it when Al's not looking – and, unfortunately since 2002, with pretty much the same results.
Opponents have talked frequently this season about how much easier it is to devise a game plan against the Raiders simply because the schemes in Oakland rarely, if ever, change.
And that, Asomugha says, is the heart of the problem.
"The simplicity of the things that we're doing, as basic as we are on defense, I think people are, if they want to, able to get us into some tough positions and that's happened," he said. "So, it's about adjusting to that in the middle of games and sometimes it gets too late in the game."
The Raiders have been repeatedly gouged on the ground and through the air this season, with much of the damage coming through what coach Tom Cable refers to as "big plays." In short, Cable believes Oakland's defense plays well enough but has occasional mental breakdowns which prove costly, and he pointed to the Thanksgiving Day loss to Dallas as proof.
"If you take the other 47 plays (the Cowboys) get 108 yards but 10 plays of big play," Cable said. "You look at those breakdowns and that's been the issue pretty much all year. I don't know if that's really scheme. I think that's staying disciplined with what they're doing."
On that point Asomugha agrees.
"Simple sometimes can be good," he said. "Simple can be good if you're doing it right. I think it's just a matter of doing what we do, if that's what we're going into each game saying we're going to do regardless of whether a team will game plan against it, which they've been doing and which they always do. It's just doing it well.
"A lot of times it's the player that's going to be putting himself in the best position to make the play just because how our defense is. You have to be better than the guy in front of you. It's not just the corners, it's the D-line, it's the linebackers, because in that type of defense one missed gap and the ball is shot up for a run for a significant gain. It kind of speaks more to us being good at what we're doing if that's what we're going to do."
Yet Asomugha also knows trotting out the same defense every week with little changes being made makes it very simple for opposing offenses to attack.
"(Charles Woodson) was saying how different it is for him to be somewhere where they do so many different things. That's what I like, but if you're not going to get it you have to make do with whatever system you're in. You have to succeed in that system. Maybe we don't want to be as multiple as other guys, maybe we don't have to be. We have to prove that we're good enough to win and play well doing the simple things that we're doing. We're not proving that right now. It's not like we proved it last year or we proved it the year before. This is several years now where we haven't been able to get over the hump of winning more than four or five games a year.
"Maybe you go back and you think about what we're doing and think about ways to fix it. The game changes. The game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that. You have to be able to adapt. But it is what it is."
Asomugha sounds off on Raiders defense
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