The defense of the Oakland Raiders has steadily improved as the season progressed. Although Ken Norton Jr.’s unit got off to a horrendous start, they have turned into a clutch unit that makes key plays during crucial moments of the game.
The defensive unit shutout the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half, keeping them scoreless in three of the four quarters. When looking at the bigger picture, Jack Del Rio’s defense had a shake up halfway into the season.
Cornerback D.J. Hayden suffered a season-ending hamstring injury, which prompted the Raiders to place him on the IR. T.J. Carrie seemingly stepped into his role and has produced big results since the change.
During the Week 14 loss to the Chiefs, Carrie recorded an interception, two passes defended and two tackles. Carrie stopped by for an interview with The Silver & Black Show, where he brought attention to the focus that the coaching staff has instilled into the players:
“One game at a time. I think the biggest thing that we have to continue to stay focused on is, you hear all of these talks of playoffs and what things should be happening or would happen if we win this game or lose this game. Coach Del Rio is real consistent with what he wants us to believe in. We have the opponent next in front of us that we have to go out there and overcome first before we can even begin to think about the long term.”
Carrie was right on the money, as earlier this week both Del Rio and Derek Carr prompted the roster to focus on the Chargers rather than the playoffs.
The defense has improved their execution of late, leaving behind their former ranking as the team that allowed the most yards per game. Upon starting the season allowing well over 400 yards per game, the team has now dropped down to an average of 384.5 yards per game.
During the interview, Carrie was asked about the versatility the unit has had this season. Rather than sticking the defensive backs to one scheme, Del Rio has placed the players in varying schemes.
Each matchup brings their own different set of receivers, which have different accolades and skill sets. The Raiders have adjusted their scheme with each opponent, in order to prepare a game plan that they feel fits their system the best.
The varying approach fits exactly into Del Rio’s state of mind, as he always says the next opponent is more important than the greater goal. Carrie elaborated on the varying schemes and said that the coaching staff does a tremendous job preparing for any situation:
“I think that’s just something that the coaches really have the trust and belief within the players that we have and they put us in the best possible situation for us to go out there and execute and you’ve seen that them coaching us in different positions or a variety of just knowing the overall defense, so that they can plug someone in there that they feel confident to get the job done.”
As the interview reached the end, Carrie was given a joking question about what he would like to do more of. If given the chance, Carrie stated he wanted to talk to Norton Jr. about being able to get more sacks, which is involved with the nickel package.
In 13 games (two starts) this season, Carrie has 12 combined tackles, four passes defended and one interception. As the regular season ends and the playoffs approach, expect Carrie to received an increased role covering the top receivers.