Can the Oakland Raiders Become a Top-10 Defense in 2013?

The Oakland Raiders returned two defensive starters in 2013, and one of those starters—safety Tyvon Branch—is out with an injury. The other starter—Lamarr Houston—has switched from left defensive end to right defensive end.

Considering that the Raiders basically picked up an entirely new defense in free agency, it was hard to know what to expect from the unit. The results have been positive so far, and the Raiders have allowed just 22 points per game, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers—their opponent Sunday—for 13th in the league in scoring defense.

Can a ragtag group of veteran defensive players and a couple rookies legitimately become a top-10 defense? It might seem far-fetched, but they can if the players continue to buy into what defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen are selling.

The Raiders have already demonstrated improvement, having only allowed 17 points per game for the last three games if you subtract interceptions returned against the offense for touchdowns against Washington and Kansas City. Last season, the Raiders were the 28th scoring defense after allowing 27.7 points per game.

One of the ways the Raiders have been successful is by creating confusion. The Raiders have managed to make things look complicated for the offense, frustrating quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith in three consecutive weeks. 

“They did a great job mixing it up,” said Smith after the Chiefs beat the Raiders 24-17 in Week 6 via

"I felt like we never could get a read on it, on what they were doing … they just kept rolling through the calls and mixing it. They did a great job. They caught us off guard a few times. They caught me off guard.” 

The Raiders don't have a truly elite pass-rusher on the team, and as a result, they blitz more than almost...

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