ALAMEDA, Calif. – When the Oakland Raiders' defense was a top-10 unit near the midpoint of the season, second-year defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was a mad scientist, of sorts. He was mixing and matching and blitzing with aplomb, and it was working.
Now? Not so much. And that’s no secret, nor is it even a rip of Tarver. Which is why I asked him if he was pleased with the progress of his defense from Week 1 through the eve of the season’s end.
“I would say this on the progress – I like the question – I would say this: There are going to be ups and downs as you go through the year,” he said Thursday. “I think certain players have been able to handle it and be consistent. I think some of the other ones have learned and shown the ability to work through pain and things like that, that maybe they haven’t experienced before.
“I think that there are definitely some things that have shown who you want to keep and who you don’t going forward.”
Tarver also made what sounded like a call for continuity on the coaching staff.
“And I think the biggest thing that it shows is if you don’t stick with a process in this league – the teams that win have a process from building up personnel and working forward,” Tarver said. “The hand that the Oakland Raiders were handed when we stepped into this building was one where we couldn’t make a lot of [roster] moves. And the moves that were made by this organization had to be made. And as you look at the progress and process, you knew through this little window that there were going to be some dramatic ups and downs – not an established quarterback … on defense, 10 new starters – whatever the case may be.
“If you don’t have a process and you don’t stick with something, you maybe get one little year blip, and then we’ll go right back down …[you knew] there were going to be ups and downs … because there were too many unknowns. But a lot of those unknowns have become knowns. And that’s a good thing.”
Got it? Good.
Then with so many purported unknowns when it comes to this coaching staff’s future in Oakland – owner Mark Davis is taking a wait-and-see approach – does Tarver’s defense need a signature moment against the Denver Broncos this weekend to solidify its stance to ensure continuity?
“I would say this: What we’ve been able to do and what a good staff does is put players in a position to make a play,” Tarver said. “That’s our job, to put players in a position to make a play to the best of our ability. For the most part we’ve gotten that done. Is there a signature moment? I mean, this is an exceptional football team [in Denver]. You hear me talk about the challenges and all those things. I mean … let’s roll the ball out and see who wants to step up and who wants to play.
“Is there going to be a signature? I don’t know. I’m excited to play the game. I’m excited to watch these guys play. I know they’ll play better than the first time they played because now they know the pace. So I don’t know. That’s the answer. 'I don’t know' is an answer, especially early in the week. By the time you get to game day it’s not an answer.”