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Raiders Mailbag: Raiders defensive line still trying to find its way

Defense wins championships, and the Silver and Black definitely recognize that.

The Raiders will be looking to shake themselves off after suffering their third loss of the season Sunday against Tampa Bay. When it came down to it, the defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was able to win the turnover battle, line of scrimmage and keep Tom Brady and their offense on the field to make plays.

The word that came up the most in the Mailbag questions was in fact defense. The Silver and Black's defense gave up over 450 yards in total offense to Tampa Bay.

Hopefully my answers provides some insight and affirmation to you all moving into Week 8. As always, feel free find me @theleviedwards on Twitter and Instagram if you have anymore questions that I would be delighted to answer.

Todd Sobieralski asks..

"Is this a must win on the schedule for us? This week against Cleveland."

Of course every game a team plays in the NFL is a must-win game, but the pressure is definitely on the Raiders to win this one.

The Raiders are currently at .500 with 10 games left in the season with their back stretch looking very optimistic. The Browns are currently just one of three teams on their remaining schedule with a winning record.

The Browns are 5-2, boasting their best regular-season start since 1994 when Bill Belichick was at the helm. Baker Mayfield has been playing inspiring football as of late, pulling out crucial wins in tight situations.

The Raiders will have to do the exact same against the Browns this Sunday. While the rest of the Silver and Black's schedule does look good from here, they will need to fight in Cleveland to make sure they don't acquire a losing record for the first time this season.

Giorgio Barone asks…

"What is the most direct and immediate action Raiders can take to improve this defense?"

To be short and sweet, rush the passer.

The Raiders defensive line has had trouble this year consistently rushing the opposing quarterback. These troubles were on full display against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Tom Brady saw ample time in the pocket, carving up the Raiders defense for 369 yards and four touchdowns.

"I'm not making any excuses; we did not get enough pass rush today," said Coach Gruden after the loss Sunday. "If you let Tom Brady stand back there and survey the field, he's proven for 20 years that he's still one of the very, very best."

Coach Gruden also suggested Monday to the media that there could be some changes to the defensive line scheme moving forward this season.

"We're going to try to get the best four out there that we can, No. 1. Whether that involves more blitzing, we'll see. Who goes inside, who goes outside. Who's on the left side, who's on the right side. What stunts we call. What blitzes we call. Everything is on the table. We've been meeting since very early in the morning. We're going to play better on defense; I'm determined to make sure we prove that this week."

Tylor Anthony Muse asks…

"What can we do as an offense to keep Ruggs involved in the later quarters?"

After a stellar 118-yard performance against the Chiefs, the rookie sensation Henry Ruggs cooled off against the top-ranked Tampa Bay defense.

Ruggs finished the game with 35 receiving yards on two catches with 10 rushing yards to complement. Derek Carr targeted him multiple times on some big yardage throws, however they were not able to capitalize on them like they did two weeks prior.

Gruden, who has been extremely vocal about wanting to use Ruggs as much as they can, was critical of his rookie's inability to not take advantage against the Buccaneers secondary.

"We tried yesterday, but give Tampa Bay credit," said Coach Gruden Monday. "They covered Ruggs III and a few times they covered him like a blanket. So Ruggs has to beat one-on-one coverage. Certainly, we have to diagram more plays to get him the ball, but when it is one-on-one we need him to win. He knows that. We know that. We're going to continue to work him in our offense. He's still a young player."

The Cleveland Browns defense has given up the third-most passing yards this season, so it looks like Ruggs might be poised for a big game in his first trip to FirstEnergy Stadium.

Kenneth Tinkham asks…

"Why does Josh Jacobs disappear from the offense for multiple series in a row?"

Jacobs' woes this previous Sunday had less to do with his play and more to do with the Buccaneers defense playing lights out.

The front seven of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won at the line of scrimmage against a Raiders' offensive line that missed nearly a week a practice coming into the game, and they were able to properly stack the box against the Raiders and show multiple blitz packages most of the game.

This lead to Jacobs finishing with 17 yards on 10 carries, the lowest amount of yardage he's ran for in a game in his NFL career to date. But the other Raiders running backs also had difficulty finding a groove, as Jalen Richard and Devontae Booker combined for 29 yards on 10 carries.

Coach Gruden expressed the same sentiment in praising Tampa's tenacious defense but is not worried that performances like this from Jacobs will continue moving forward.

"Well, he's beat up no doubt, just like most running backs and football players are at this point," said Coach Gruden. "Tampa Bay is an excellent defense. They're an outstanding run defense … They're a hard team to run against. They jam the front. They cover the center and both guards. You can't get to either one of their linebackers at times and those guys don't miss tackles. It's a tough defense to run the ball against.

"I think (Josh Jacobs) is fine. We have to get Ruggs III going, we have to get Jacobs going, but I'm really proud of our offense. I think our offense is playing great football, and we're only going to get better."

View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 7 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Allegiant Stadium.

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