Winless Raiders scramble for fix

ALAMEDA — One day after a 30-14 drubbing by the Houston Texans, the weakest team on the Raiders’ schedule, head coach Dennis Allen didn’t mince his words.

Allen may have been more matter-of-fact Monday than he’s been over his past two seasons with Oakland, touching on an inconsistent-at-best run defense and other maladies that the Raiders will need to correct:

“Ultimately what this game came down to is they were able to run the ball on us when they wanted to run the ball on us. And that’s a mentality. We’ve got to change that. We’ve got to be better there.”

Allen didn’t stop there, though his focus was clear. He’s disappointed — a mild way of putting it — in his front seven. Houston ran the ball 46 times Sunday for nearly 200 yards.

That was one major reason that Allen wants to re-tool his defense:

“Really, with the breakdowns in run defense, that starts with the front seven. And too many times, the ball is getting back to the third level of the defense, the safeties, the corners. … It’s time for us to do it — talk is cheap. We need to make improvement, and we need to make improvement fast.”

Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints, two winless teams that made the playoffs last season, the Raiders can feel trouble brewing. They are in scramble mode.

Oakland will be looking at everything to fix the lackluster play on both sides of the ball. Allen confirmed Monday that he and the other coaches will consider plugging in different personnel, and Allen could even start calling plays himself.

That means the possibility of playing time for rookie corners Keith McGill and T.J. Carrie. Perhaps defensive linemen Justin Ellis and Shelby Harris will get time with the first team.

Another change was the addition of free agent wide receiver Vincent Brown. Asked whether he signed with the team, Allen chose not to say, but upon entering the locker room, Brown already had a locker, and will be wearing No. 19.

An official announcement of a one-year deal is expected Monday evening. Linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu was waived in a corresponding move.

Certainly Brown will need some time to sink his teeth into Greg Olson’s offense and learn the playbook, but he may still see the field when the Raiders visit the Patriots next Sunday.

Another possible move, while far-fetched, is rookie safety Jonathan Dowling making the temporary switch to linebacker. At 6-foot-3, Dowling provides an imposing presence despite his roots in the secondary, and speed to boot.

Dowling was known in college as a hard hitter at Western Kentucky, which further bases the reasoning that he could be an impact run stuffer. The caveat, though, is his weight. Dowling tipped the scales during the 2014 NFL draft combine at 190 pounds, which is light even for a safety, and definitely a linebacker.

McGill too, with a 6-foot-3 frame and 210 pounds of impact,  was compared to Brandon Browner by analyst Mike Mayock during the draft, for better and worse.

One more likely move will be placing rookie linebacker Khalil Mack at left defensive end, and Lamarr Woodley inside. Both are premier run-stoppers and the package was already in place for the pass rush.

The aggressive moves indicate Allen is on the hot seat. If Dennis Allen is to finish the season as an NFL head coach, the team will need to get their stuff together faster than Kanye West can put out another auto-tune album.

Other moves short of canning Allen could be made, like relieving offensive coordinator Greg Olson, possibly being replaced by quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.

Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver could take the fall in favor of an out-of-work former head coach like Mike Singletary, who helped build the Minnesota Vikings defense into one of the better units in football, and previously coached up linebackers Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis.

With the draft selections of Mack and Sio Moore, the addition of Singletary would seem like a fit, though there’s nothing concrete to the parts together.


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