Defense has a long way to go, but showed improvements against Dallas

Raiders defense bends but doesn't break against the Cowboys

Bonta Hill
August 26, 2017 - 8:40 pm

The old adage of “defense wins championships” is something we hear 8,376,999 times every season, but it’s an aphorism that the Oakland Raiders and its fan base will roll their eyes at all season.

Much has been said about the Raiders defense and how putrid it’s been so far this preseason.

But don’t look too deeply into the final score of the silver and black’s 24-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, as 14 of those points came against backups who won’t even make the roster.

More importantly, the first-stringers played better tonight. The Cowboys were 1-for-6 on third downs against the ones, and they tackled well in the open field.

I’ve mentioned numerous times that the best defense for the 2017 Raiders will be its offense, but if the defense plays like it did in the first half, this team will definitely challenge the powers of the AFC for a trip to Minnesota in early February.

Without Cory James, and Gareon Conley, the defense bent, but that’s expected in today’s NFL. It wasn’t pretty, but the first-string defense held its own against the Cowboys’ high-powered offense, giving up only 10 points.

Now, Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group tweeted these numbers out:

I’m not sure what to make of that due to teams not game planning for preseason matchups. I’m sure the Raiders hid most of their exoctic blitzes and coverages for the regular season, but still, if Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin can’t apply consistent quarterback pressure, this defense will get roasted.

Look, the last eight regular season games, the Raiders improved and made plays to help an off-and-on offense. And with an offense that’s expected to be one of the best in the NFL, if this defense can keep teams from scoring more than 20 a game, this team will play deep into the playoffs.

The defense will be a work in progress, a unit that won’t fully gel until halfway through the 2017 season. Will it be too late? Will the offense be able to carry the defense until the defense gets healthy?

Time will tell but for a night, the defense did show signs of life against the Cowboys.

Additional notes:

—Linebacker Jelani Jenkins made some plays in space but also bit hard on a run fake that resulted into an easy pitch-and-catch touchdown for Dak Prescott and Jason Witten.

Obi Melinfonwu showed flashes but showed expected nerves in his first game as a member of the Oakland Raiders. His secondary mates - Karl Joseph and TJ Carrie - had their struggles in pass coverage as well.

—The Raiders’ backfield is going to special. We know Marshawn Lynch will bounce off of defenders, but DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are going to give linebackers headaches in space.

Donald Penn showed no rust during his two series of action.

—Last but not least, quarterback Derek Carr came out a little too fired up, but once he settled down, he showed why the organization made him one of the highest paid quarterbacks in football.

He finished 13-for-17 for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including one sweet 48-yard TD pass to a bulkier Amari Cooper, whom I’m expecting to become an All-Pro this season.

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