By Danny Cox
The Oakland Raiders are sitting at 2-4 and fourth place in the AFC West. It is never an easy division, but it is even harder to move up this year as the Denver Broncos are 6-1 and the Kansas City Chiefs are sitting at 7-0 and as the last undefeated team in the NFL.
Still, the silver and black attack is doing a lot of things right, and they got some extremely good advice when it came time for their bye week before a game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Coach said it best,” said Raiders free safety Charles Woodson. “This is a time where you’re supposed to go relax, go have fun … but do it with a little bit of, keep it cool. Keep a cool head and don’t find yourself in any bad positions.”
Coach Dennis Allen not only wants his players to rest and take it easy, but he also doesn’t want them becoming a headline.
With a number of legal problems, attitude issues, and even run-ins with law enforcement, Allen did not one of his players being the next to get splashed on all the newspapers. A break from football can sometimes make a player think with an unclear mind, and he was not going to have any of that.
That’s extremely sound advice for a team that really isn’t playing all that bad and has come rather close to being 3-3 or even 4-2. They owe credit to Terrelle Pryor, who still needs work, and a sound running game that is ranked ninth in the league. The majority of the credit though, belongs to the defense that is led by defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
Tarver is only in his second year in the position, but he’s already remade the entire defense and being called a “mad scientist” of sorts.
“Yeah, a lab coat, glasses, pens in his pocket,” laughed Woodson. “I can see the whole thing. It’s been fun for me playing under him, and I know we can get better with him.”
In Week 2, strong safety Tyvon Branch got a broken leg and that meant the defense had one returning starter in defensive end Lamarr Houston. Tarver switched him from left to right, made a few other changes, and is working with a group of guys that don’t have a lot of time together, but do have the chemistry.
After six games, the Raiders have the 13th-ranked defense in the NFL and are 10th against the run. They had a mere 12 sacks in 2012, but are already on pace to have 43 once the season is all said and done.
Oakland’s defense does have a lot of talent on the field, but the credit has to go to the mind and interesting defensive schemes of Tarver. He’s smart, quick, and not afraid to call something that some other coaches may be scared to take a chance at.
With the mad scientist at work, some sound advice from their head coach, and a week to rest and heal up, the Oakland Raiders could very well come out of their bye week as one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.