To a man, Raiders players and coaches say their inability to stop the run isn't because of poor talent, coaching or a lack of effort. They blame it on execution.
"Just keep your butt in that chair and everything will be fine," said coach Tom Cable, referring to defenders not straying from the area for which they're responsible. "It's up to each man to do that, and we didn't do a very good job of it."
Cable was speaking mostly about the 316 yards rushing the New York Jets amassed on Sunday in a 38-0 shellacking of the Raiders at the Coliseum.
Cable could have been speaking about the first seven games in general.
The Raiders have allowed an average of 169.7 yards rushing and a league-high tying 11 rushing touchdowns. The franchise worst is 171.2 yards per game allowed in 1962. They are 30th against the run, one spot higher than they were each of the past two seasons.
"It is such a basic thing and, obviously, we need to do a better job in practice," defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "Maybe we make practice live (tackling)."
Cable said the disastrous results against the run come from players trying to do too much and abandoning their responsibilities too often.
By his count, the Raiders missed 15 tackles against the Jets, many on run plays. The missed tackles are especially disappointing, he said, because an inordinate amount of practice time is spent on that.
"We do it twice a week," Cable said, "and it's
Two AFC scouts were asked to assess the Raiders' run-stopping issues. Both said players are out of position on a consistent basis and display poor tackling. They said the Raiders frequently have eight or nine defenders near the line of scrimmage, but that they still get gouged at an unacceptable rate.
"It's not the scheme, and there's enough talented players to be successful," said one of the scouts, who requested anonymity. "If there's one glaring shortcoming, it's that they need to do a better job of preventing the offensive linemen from getting to the second level."
When offensive linemen reach the so-called second level, they are in position to block linebackers and defensive backs. At that point, short runs tend to turn into long ones.
"Those linebackers aren't well suited to fighting off blocks, so it's imperative that the defensive linemen keep the offensive linemen from getting downfield," the other scout said. "Those linebackers need to be able to run unimpeded to the ball so that they can make plays."
Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was a lightning rod for criticism during his five-year stay with the Raiders from 2004-08. But he can't be blamed this year.
Instead, all eyes are on new defensive coordinator John Marshall. He said there are two requirements to stopping the run.
"It's 98 percent toughness and desire," Marshall said. "Toughness (and) attitude. You've got to go after their fannies. That's what run defense is. You've just got to play hard, play tough."
Until that happens, things won't sit too well with Cable.
The Raiders were third against the run in 2002 at an average of 90.8 yards per game. They haven't finished higher than 22nd the past six seasons:
Year Yards Rank carry TD
2003 156.9 32nd 4.6 21
2004 125.8 22nd 3.7 21
2005 128.1 25th 4.0 18
2006 134.0 25th 4.0 15
2007 145.9 31st 4.8 24
2008 159.7 31st 4.7 23
*2009 169.7 30th 4.6 11
* Through seven games