Oakland Raiders’ Defensive Adjustments Paying Dividends in Ugly Victories

In the previous two victories, the Oakland Raiders have won in ugly fashion, thanks to a stifling defense, which signifies a much-needed balance for a winning formula.

Throughout the 2015-16 NFL season, the buzz surrounding the Raiders’ resurrection has highlighted the offense and rightfully so. However, an ascending team must find various ways of winning football games before becoming a true contender. 

Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has done more with less in the secondary and made adjustments in bold fashion—squeezing maximum production out of underachieving players and rookie talents.

Within the previous three outings, the Raiders field the No. 8 total defense in yards allowed and the No. 4 run defense.

Despite a mediocre record, Oakland’s resistance on defense has developed significantly down the stretch, and Norton’s adjustments deserve recognition.


Inserting Ben Heeney into Starting Lineup

Rookie linebacker Ben Heeney exceeded expectations in the preseason, and he’s carried his exceptional play into the regular season.

When combining Heeney’s Week 14 and Week 16 performances, he graded as the top inside linebacker in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

Draft analysts have criticized Heeney for poor pass coverage, but he hasn’t allowed a touchdown reception since taking over as a starter. He’s surrendering a mere 6.7 yards per reception, which implies quickness and sure tackling when closing on the ball. He’s also logged three sacks as a solid component to blitz schemes.

Norton boldly pulled inside linebacker Curtis Lofton, an eight-year veteran, off the field for an inexperienced rookie. The substitution has bolstered the run defense and equipped the defense with another decent pass-rusher.


Inserting David Amerson into Starting...

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