The Oakland Raiders have begun the 2016 season on a high note, with coach Jack Del Rio having the team focused on all pages. Entering their Week 4 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens with a record of 2-1, the team has battled in heavily contested matchups against quality teams.
The Week 4 contest at M&T Bank Stadium will be an interesting matchup to watch. Opposing coach John Harbaugh is a well respected coach around the National Football League, with a Super Bowl ring atop his resumé. The Ravens are one of five remaining perfect teams entering Week 4.
The Ravens will ensue with their hard-nosed style of play, using brute force on both the defensive and offensive ends. Heading into the matchup, Harbaugh held a presser in which he discussed the Raiders on their strengths.
Heading into the matchup, the Raiders offensive and defensive units find themselves on opposite ends. The offense is averaging 436 yards per game, which is second in the NFL. However, they also find themselves in last place on the defensive end, with opponents averaging 476 yards per game.
In Harbaugh’s eyes, the defense is capable of much more than people give them credit for. Heading into the matchup, Harbaugh commended the secondary play of Sean Smith and David Amerson, via Kyle Martin of Raiders.com:
“You know, Sean Smith has been around for a while with Kansas City. We played him a few times, so we know he’s very talented and a good player. Of course, David Amerson, I think he’s turned himself into one of the best corners, it looks like, in football right now. I think he’s done that by improving his technique and eyes and things like that. He looks really good.”
During the Raiders’ Week 3 victory against the Tennessee Titans, Smith recorded his first interception of the season. In three games played, Smith has totaled eight tackles, two passes defended and one interception.
Amerson has developed nicely heading into his fourth season. The cornerback has provided a strong tackling presence in the secondary, with 13 tackles through three games. Amerson also has eight passes defended, along with one interception.
Along with the secondary, the pass rush has been slowly emerging into form. While experts are awaiting the breakout of Khalil Mack, other additions along the defensive line have eased the pressure off of Mack.
Harbaugh singled out the key addition of Bruce Irvin and how he and Mack complement each other in an interchangeable system:
“He’s [Khalil Mack] a devastating pass rusher and then to bring [Bruce] Irvin in there, I thought it was a great move and they complement each other as outside backers, they’re kind of interchangeable even in their base package and certainly in the sub and pass rushes. That’s a very formidable group.”
Coming off of a dominant sophomore campaign, Mack has yet to record a sack this season. In three starts, the 25-year-old has totaled seven tackles and six assisted tackles.
Irvin, who signed a four-year, $37 million contract this offseason, has produced steadily. The former Seattle Seahawk has collected seven tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles thus far.
While the Week 4 matchup against the Ravens is slated to be a shootout, key defensive stops may determine the ultimate winner.