There are a lot of areas that need to get cleaned up on both sides of the ball for the Oakland Raiders. No one – from the coaching staff to the players – is proud of Thursday's performance.
Levi's Stadium served as the battleground for the "Battle of the Bay," but it wasn't much of a battle, considering the Raiders fell 34-3. The offense wasn't able to get much of anything going, and the defense gave up six plays that totaled 240 yards combined. There are a lot of reasons as to why the 49ers were able to create big chunk plays, but one of them has to do with stopping the run at the line of scrimmage.
Last year – Week 17 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. – defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes tore his ACL against the Chargers, and he's been rehabbing ever since. On top of his absence, fellow defensive tackle Justin Ellis has been sidelined the majority of 2018 with an injury, but he's approaching a return date.
"I hope so," Head Coach Jon Gruden said when asked Monday if the team would get Ellis back soon. "We miss him, we're going to try to rev up [Eddie] Vanderdoes as well. Those are two big guys that can obviously help us. We know what Ellis is and what we've been missing there. But, he's still a couple weeks away I think."
During the five seasons Ellis has been a Raider, No. 78 has registered 112 tackles, five for loss, three quarterback hits, and half a sack. His presence has been missed in the middle of the defensive line, and Gruden expects more from the trio of rookie defensive linemen.
"I thought P.J. Hall had one of his better games last night," Gruden shared. "He had some good pursuit plays. I think he's starting to catch on to the position. Remember, he's a guy who played in college all over the place. He was a stand-up end, he's an outside linebacker. Heck, they used him everywhere. He is just now healthy, remember, he was out for a while. He's starting to do some good things. [Maurice] Hurst is doing a lot of good things. I don't know that they are hitting a wall, you'd have to ask them. We need to get Arden Key in some pass rush situations. We got to continue to get him stronger and more experience, but I like all three of those guys."
The rookie trio of Key, Hurst, and Hall combined for six tackles, but the unit is capable of more. Whether the defense gets production from the rookies, or the return of Vanderdoes and Ellis, putting pressure on the quarterback, and clogging the running lanes will be vital for the team's success moving forward. At 1-7 the Raiders aren't in an ideal position, but the second half of the season will be about determining what the guys are made of.
"I see players after every game that want to be Raiders," Gruden said during his postgame presser Thursday. "That's been the case my entire life. I think the brand of the Raiders is an exciting one, and I think a lot of players do want to play for us in the future."
With a weekend to recover, and get back to neutral, the Raiders will get back into gear Monday when they begin prepping for the Los Angeles Chargers.