SARASOTA, Fla. — If the Oakland Raiders are going to have any success turning their season around in the second half they will need to be strong on defense against the run and generate some turnovers in the secondary.
The Raiders have given up 120.4 yards per game on the ground, 25th in the league. Oakland gave up 166 yards rushing in Sunday’s 34-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Running back LeSean McCoy had 151 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said that they held McCoy in check for the most part until a 48-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
“McCoy was good, I think that up until that point we were pretty solid and sound,” Norton said. “You got to give him a lot of credit and the offensive line a lot of credit for putting bodies on it. At the same time, we missed a tackle or two on that play. Not very happy about it and we’ve certainly cleaned that up.”
The Raiders were expected to face another top running back when they play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night but the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2018 fourth-round draft selection Monday.
Head coach Jack Del Rio doesn’t expect the Dolphins to change many of their running formations despite the change in personnel.
“I mean, it’s similar to a guy getting injured for us,” Del Rio said. “Obviously for them, they don’t have him at all anymore, but for us we treat it very similarly to a guy that maybe was injured. Because it’s going to be the next man up.”
The Raiders secondary has also struggled and the team’s depth is being challenged by several injuries. Safety Gareon Conley is not expected to be available Sunday night and cornerback David Amerson did not practice Thursday as he continues to deal with a foot injury.
Oakland does not have an interception this season but Norton said he expects the turnovers will come as long as the players execute.
“We understand that there’s a certain process, there’s a certain technique, there’s certain defenses that you call,” Norton said. “It’s about mastering your defense, mastering your technique (and) then putting yourself in position to make plays.
“Study well, watching a lot of film (and) really understand the formations that you’re getting. I think that the process of being smart and adding your hustle and your enthusiasm to it, it puts you in a position to make plays.”
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman said that the defense needs to play with a greater sense of urgency with eight games remaining.
“We have to set our minds to going to reach this goal if we want to do it,” Bowman said. “I think we have the guys here to do it, we just have to hone in and play a full 60-minute game, and understand it’s not going to be easy. We have to go and take it. If we do that, guys step up to the plate and do what those guys need to do, we’ll be fine.”