Sports

Raiders won't have it easy

OAKLAND -- Do your job.

Sounds simple enough.

But the Raiders' defense hasn't done that nearly enough, especially against running backs.

If San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson proved he owned the Raiders again last week, Kansas City's Larry Johnson wouldn't mind renting the Raiders' run defense today at McAfee Coliseum.

The Raiders are 28th in the NFL, giving up 144.8 yards rushing per game. Johnson averaged 144.5 yards in two games against the Raiders last year. The remedy? Know your role and do it. If it were only that simple, the Raiders wouldn't struggle so much to stop the run.

"The theme that's come up a lot this week is 'do your job,' " said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. "That's what it comes down to, that whatever your position is, do your job throughout the week. The way you prepare, the way you practice, then you do it on game day as far as your assignments and we'll be fine."

If only it were that simple.

The Raiders have tried to simplify things as much as possible by emphasizing the need to take care of one's own gap in the running game.

The problem is the Raiders too often have someone not minding their responsibility in the run game.

Defenders ignoring their duty to make a play can leave big holes for backs.

"It's tough being an athlete and wanting to get to the ball but we all have a job," said linebacker Robert Thomas. "That's where discipline comes in. If it's an eight-man front and everyone takes care of their gap then there's nowhere to go."

But there's been plenty places to go this season. Whether it's up the middle or to the outside, running backs have run for big yards amid missed tackles and blown assignments by the Raiders.

Three of five starting running backs have gained 100 yards on the ground against the Raiders. The Raiders allow 5.6 yards a carry, the highest in the NFL. Johnson averaged 4.7 yards a carry last year against Oakland, in part because he's willing to wait for a Raider defender not to do his job.

"He's a patient runner," said safety Stuart Schweigert. "He's going to wait, wait, wait, find the hole and hit it. This week we have to be especially sound in our gap responsibilities."

Aside from taking care of individual responsibilities, it would help if the Raiders tackled, too.

Many of the big runs allowed by the Raiders include a member of the secondary missing a tackle chasing from behind.

One reason cornerbacks Stanford Routt and Fabian Washington split time is both missed key tackles on Tomlinson.

Kiffin said Schweigert has missed tackles, but has also been put in bad positions when players near the line don't do their jobs when the Raiders crowd the line of scrimmage.

"Either you got beat one-on-one or you weren't disciplined enough to stay in your gap," Thomas said. "When a running back squirts out of an eight-man front it comes down to that one player's gap responsibility."

Good or bad, it's that simple.

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