Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scouting Report: Oakland Raiders

Rising-star QB Derek Carr has led a balanced and high-scoring Raider attack, while the Oakland defense has given up a lot of yards but also created a lot of turnovers.

A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Raiders.

On Sunday, the 3-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the 5-2 Oakland Raiders at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. It will be the ninth meeting between the two teams in the regular season and a chance for the Buccaneers to win back-to-back games against the Raiders for the first time (more on the Bucs-Raiders series history).

The Raiders are trying to win their fifth road game in as many tries in 2016. To prevent that, the Bucs will need to force heady quarterback Derek Carr into more mistakes than is typical. Tampa Bay's offense will try to take advantage of a Oakland defense that is ranked 28th against the run and which has frequently hurt itself with penalties. Here's a closer look at the challenges the Buccaneers will face when they try to secure their first home victory in 2016.

HEAD COACH:

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Jack Del Rio has essayed a quick franchise turnaround in Oakland since arriving in 2015, just as he did in his first NFL head coaching job in Jacksonville. The Raiders haven't had a winning season since the 2002 campaign that ended in a Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers, but at 5-2 in 2016 they seem well on the way to ending that drought. Del Rio inherited a team that had won a total of 11 games from 2012-14, got them to 7-9 last year and sent six Raiders to the Pro Bowl, tying a franchise record.

Del Rio began his coaching career in 1997 with the New Orleans Saints, the first of four teams for whom he suited up during an 11-year NFL playing career that included 160 games and 128 starts. He later coached linebackers in Baltimore and held Carolina's defensive coordinator post in 2002 before landing his first head coaching position with the Jaguars in 2003. Just the second head coach in franchise history, he followed Tom Coughlin, whose last three Jags teams had all finished under .500. After a 5-11 campaign in '03, Del Rio led the Jaguars to a 9-7 mark in 2004 and to the playoffs in 2005 with a 12-4 finish. The Jaguars went back to the postseason in 2007, and overall Del Rio's Jacksonville teams were 68-71 under his guidance. Combined with his first 21 games in Oakland, Del Rio has career 80-82 record as an NFL head coach. If one includes the four games during which he was Denver's interim head coach while John Fox was dealing with a medical issue – the Broncos went 3-1 – Del Rio's record improves to 83-83.

Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter was Jacksonville's offensive coordinator during the last five years of Del Rio's run as head coach, and he credits Del Rio with teaching him quite a bit about defense in the NFL. Indeed, Del Rio's teams have consistently been effective on that side of the ball. Most recently as the Broncos' defensive coordinator from 2012-14, he oversaw a crew that ranked first, first and second on defense over that three-year span.

Del Rio sometimes displays the intensity one would expect from a long-time NFL player, but he's also hands-on and upbeat with his players. He's not afraid to gamble, which was made clear most recently when he eschewed a potential game-tying extra point at the end of a wild Week One shootout in New Orleans to go for two with less than a minute to play. The Raiders converted and went home with a 35-34 victory, setting the tone for what has been a very successful season during the first half of 2016.

OFFENSE

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There's a lot to like about the Raiders' offense through the first seven weeks of the season, starting with its balance. In terms of yards, Oakland ranks 11th in the NFL and 13th in both rushing and passing. That, plus a very good turnover ratio, has helped Oakland score 26.4 points per game, the league's eighth-best mark. Third-year quarterback Derek Carr is off to a fantastic start, with 13 touchdown passes against just three interceptions, but Oakland has also used a three-headed backfield to rush for 4.7 yards per carry and a total of eight touchdowns. The Raiders have typically let Carr lead them to a quick start on offense – the team has thrown on a higher percentage of plays in the first half (65.3%) than all but three other teams – then put games away in the second half with that strong rushing attack. The Raiders' run rate increases to 42.7% after the intermission, 12th-highest in the NFL.

Carr has started every game since the Raiders drafted him in the second round in 2014 and he has shown steady improvement. His TD-INT ratio improved from a perfectly-acceptable rookie mark of 21-12 to 32-13 last year. So far in 2016, Carr has thrown 13 touchdown passes but been picked off just three times, making him the only quarterback in the league with double-digit TDs and three or fewer interceptions. He has shown impressive accuracy this season (65.9%) and with a very quick release has mostly avoided being taken down.

It helps that the Raiders have steadily assembled a strong cast around their young quarterback, including one of the biggest and most effective offensive lines in the NFL. Oakland's starting five up front have an average height and weight of 6-4, 319 pounds and that group got significantly better in the offseason when the Raiders signed Kelechi Osemele away from the Ravens. Osemele is capable of playing anywhere on the line but has settled in at left guard because the Raiders are getting good work out of the tackle combo of Donald Penn and Menelik Watson. According to Football Outsiders, Oakland's offensive line ranks 10th in the NFL in run blocking and first in pass blocking in 2016. The raw numbers certainly bear that out, as the Raiders have allowed only seven sacks of Carr in 264 dropbacks, a league-best 2.6% sacks-per-pass-play mark.

Carr also has a very dynamic pair of wide receivers to work with, thanks to the drafting of Alabama's Amari Cooper fourth overall in 2015 and the very astute free-agency pickup of Michael Crabtree last year. Cooper and Crabtree have combined for 79 catches, the most by any pair of wide receiver teammates in the NFL. Cooper has been more of a big-play receiver, with 614 yards (sixth in the NFL) and a 15.4-yard per-catch average, but Crabtree has hauled in six touchdown passes, tied with Tampa Bay's Mike Evans for the NFL lead. Earlier this week, Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter made a loose comparison between Carr and his two receivers and the trio of Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones he enjoyed during his time as the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator.

Cooper has been one of the main components in an effective big-play attack for the Raiders. Carr has a 113.4 passer rating on balls thrown at least 21 yards in the air, putting Oakland ninth in the league in that category. The Raiders have recorded 29 plays of 20 or more yards, tied for seventh-most in the NFL. Carr and the Raiders have also made things easier on themselves by frequently succeeding on first down; 52.3% of their first-down plays have gained four or more yards, the fifth-best rate in the league. In that light, it's a bit surprising that Oakland's offense is only 21st-best in the NFL on third down, converting 37.8% of the time.

Oakland's offensive backfield is a full-on time-share between starter Latavius Murray and a pair of rookies, fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington and undrafted free agent Jalen Richard. Murray has the most carries, with 58, and has scored five of the team's eight rushing touchdowns, but Washington actually leads the team with 235 yards on 47 totes. Washington has averaged 5.0 yards per carry and Richard has picked up 6.1 yards per handoff on 30 carries. Richard owns the team's longest play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown run…on his first NFL carry in that Week One win at New Orleans.

The Raiders' offense has certainly been helped a great deal by a takeaway-happy defense that has helped the team post a +8 turnover ratio. Oakland has enjoyed 13 drives that started in their opponents' territory, the second-best mark in the league. They've made the most of those opportunities by excelling in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on 75% of their trips inside the 20. That's the fourth-best percentage in the NFL.

DEFENSE

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By the simple measure of yards, the Raiders bring the NFL's worst defense to Tampa, having surrendered an average of 430.4 yards per game. Of course, it's not nearly as simple as that. The Raiders are a more respectable 22nd in terms of points allowed per game, at 25.6, they've been very good at creating turnovers and they've done reasonably well in such situational football as third downs and red zone defense. More on that below.

Still, teams have moved the ball against the Raiders, particularly through the air, and in big chunks. Oakland has given up 32 completions of 20 or more yards already, the most in the NFL. They have had a bad first and second-down combination, allowing 5.39 yards per rush on first downs (30th in the NFL) and a passer rating of 118.1 on second down (last in the league). The Raiders have made up for that somewhat by ranking seventh in third-down defense, allowing a 34.5% conversion rate. They are particularly good on longer third downs, ranking first on tries of longer than six yards (13.2%) and second on tries of four to six yards (25.0%).

Those latter accomplishments almost surely have something to do with a robust pass rush led by young star linebacker Khalil Mack. Mack was in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversation in 2015 when he racked up 15 sacks, and he has three through the first seven games of this season. Through his first two seasons he tended to get them in bunches, with five multi-sack performances, including a five-sack outing against Denver last year.

The Raiders signed linebacker Bruce Irvin away from Seattle this past spring to join Mack in rushing the quarterback, and indeed Irvin has dropped two passers while also forcing four fumbles. The surprise contributor to the Oakland pass rush has been fourth-year defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who had all of nine starts and 0.5 sacks in his first three seasons. He has 2.5 this year. Surprisingly, Oakland's pass rush has not yet emerged as one of the league's elite, as the Raiders are tied for 28th this year with just nine QB takedowns overall.

As well as Oakland has run the ball, they've actually had a net loss on the ground, giving up 128.3 yards per game to rank 28th in the league. When opponents have chosen to run on first down, as noted above, they've generally been successful, getting four or more yards 47.6% of the time. The Raiders two leading tacklers are both safeties – Reggie Nelson and rookie first-round pick Karl Joseph – which sometimes is an indication that opposing rushes are too frequently getting to the second level of the defense.

Despite the poor passing defense numbers, the Raiders' secondary is loaded with playmakers. Nelson went to the Pro Bowl last year after recording a career-high eight interceptions, and he has two more picks this year (32 in his career) to go with a team-high 52 tackles, six passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. The starting cornerback duo of David Amerson and Sean Smith has combined for four interceptions, two apiece, and 17 passes defensed. Overall, the Raiders' defense ranks sixth in the NLF in interceptions and has broken up 38 passes, an average of more than five per game.

Smith was another big-time free agency acquisition this past spring, coming over from division rival Kansas City. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, he is of that relatively rare cornerback breed that can match up in size with such big receivers as Tampa Bay's Mike Evans. The Raiders got Amerson via more modest means, claiming him off waivers from Washington last September. All he did in 15 games with the Raiders was break up 26 passes, a single-season team record. Amerson also recorded four interceptions and 62 tackles in his debut Raider season.

As noted, the Raiders have been stingier when the field is shorter, allowing only 50.0% of opponent red-zone incursions to end in touchdowns. That's tied for the 10th-best mark in the league. Two red zone takeaways have helped in that regard. In goal-to-go situations, the Raiders have allowed a touchdown rate of 68.8%, which is good for 11th in the NFL.

SPECIAL TEAMS

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Of all the memorable names that have graced the back of an Oakland jersey, none has done so for more seasons or more games than 'Janikowski.' That would be placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, the former first-round pick who is in his 17th season and recently played in his 259th game. He is just the ninth player in league history to surpass 250 games played, and the only active one.

Known for the better part of two decades for his powerful left leg, Janikowski is still going strong in 2016, converting all 17 of his extra point tries and 12 of his 15 field goal attempts. All three of his misses have come from beyond 50 yards, but he's also made three from that range and is 4-4 between 40 and 49 yards. In his career, he is an 80.2% field goal kicker, and since the NFL moved the extra point back in 2015, he's made 55 of 56 from the more challenging distance.

Marquette King is a relative newcomer compared to Janikowski, but he's putting together a marvelous 2016 campaign, his fourth as the team's primary punter. King ranks second in the NFL with a gross punting average of 50.6 and eighth with a net average of 42.4. He's dropped 15 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, tied for second in the NFL. King even showed off some impressive footspeed last week in a win at Jacksonville, fielding a low snap and simply dashing around left end for a 27-yard gain. It was the longest run by an NFL punter since 2010.

Richard, the undrafted running back out of Southern Miss, has also proven to be a weapon in the return game. He's returned 13 punts at a 12.1-yard clip, good for sixth in the league, with a long of 47. Richard's eight kickoff returns in seven games is just under the average needed to qualify for the NFL lead in that category, but his 24.8-yard mark would put him right around sixth, as well. His good work in the return game has helped Oakland rank fourth in the NFL with an average starting drive position of their own 31.3-yard line.

On the other hand, Oakland has not been particularly strong at covering kicks so far in 2016. Opponents have averaged 13.8 yards per punt return against the Raiders, the sixth-worst mark in the league. With Janikowski handling kickoffs, the Raiders have forced touchbacks on exactly half of their attempts, tied for the sixth-lowest percentage in the NFL.

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