Raiders’ defensive struggles make Khalil Mack’s bold prediction appear far off

It wasn’t long ago the Oakland Raiders thought they were building something special on defense. After two games, it appears the building remains very much under construction with no completion date evident. The Raiders have allowed more than 500 yards in each of their first two games, something no defense has done since the 1970 merger, per ESPN.

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Allowing 34 and 35 points in those games, respectively, seems to back up that this is not just a bend-but-don’t-break defense either.

Khalil Mack said in May he thought the Raiders could dominate defensively. So far, they haven't. (AP)
Khalil Mack said in May he thought the Raiders could dominate defensively. So far, they haven’t. (AP)

And to think that Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack, whom we spoke to in May, felt this defense could be on par with the 2015 Denver Broncos unit that helped lead that team to a Super Bowl. At this rate, it would be stunning to see that kind of transformation anytime soon.

There’s already buzz of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. having his play-calling duties stripped, which seems like an extreme move for a team that’s still trying to jell with all the new pieces added this offseason. But perhaps with those additions, we overrated their ability to come together quickly (I asked Mack about this back in May, too).

The front seven is not above reproach — see below — but for now it appears the secondary is the bigger concern. Cornerback Sean Smith has been picked on the first few games, and safety Reggie Nelson has yet to make a great impact. Even David Amerson, who picked off Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the end zone in Week 2, struggled with tackling in the game and then left the game with an injury.

We spoke with Ryan on Tuesday, and he made an interesting observation about why the Falcons were able to have so much success running the no-huddle offense against the Raiders on Sunday:

“Against Oakland, with their bigger defensive line, we felt like we could wear them out with that,” Ryan said. “It went well for us. We executed it at a really good clip all game. We’ll see if it’s something we continue to use going forward. When it’s right, it’s certainly something we are capable of doing well.”

Right now, that’s just one issue on a defense that appears to have several things to iron out.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!