ALAMEDA, Calif. — The blowout loss the Raiders suffered against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, their third straight double-digit defeat, exposed some long-standing defensive issues. And it left head coach Jon Gruden promising changes.
Some of those changes began revealing themselves on Tuesday.
The Raiders released safety D.J. Swearinger, linebacker Preston Brown and defensive tackle Terrell McClain. They also signed running back Rod Smith and placed rookie tight end Foster Moreau on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury he suffered against the Titans.
“I don’t know, it’s sickening. It’s tough, but it’s a necessary evil,” Gruden said Monday of a potential shakeup. “Right now, we’ve got to play better, and we’re going to play better. … What happened (Sunday) will not happen again. I can’t allow it to happen.”
The moves on Tuesday leave the Raiders with just 50 players on their 53-man roster.
They could look to promote some practice squad players to fill out the active roster — among the possibilities are defensive backs Jordan Brown and Nick Nelson and defensive end Kendall Donnerson.
Among the players who could see more time to help address the defensive woes is rookie cornerback Isiah Johnson, who suffered a facial fracture in the Raiders’ first preseason game and has played in just three games this year.
“He’s not the most experienced corner. He missed a lot of time,” Gruden said. “So to put him out there in prime time and say let’s go, might not be fair to him yet, but we’re going to look at him.”
The Raiders signed Swearinger on November 9 to provide safety depth after Karl Joseph went down with a season-ending knee injury against the Los Angeles Chargers. He started three games and had 20 tackles.
McClain played in three games with the Raiders after signing on October 30.
Brown, who was signed on November 18, played in one game and had just one tackle.
Smith has spent the majority of his five-year career with the Cowboys, although he played three games for the Titans this year. His signing provides coverage for injured Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who is dealing with a fractured shoulder blade and is uncertain for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Moving forward, the Raiders need to upgrade their defense with more difference makers and better tacklers at all three levels. Aside from a No. 1 wide receiver, defensive players figure to be a prominent target with the five picks they have within the first 90 selections in next April’s draft and the $70 million they are projected to have under the salary cap.
The Raiders are giving up the fourth-most points in the NFL at 28.2 points per game and have allowed 69 pass plays of 20 or more yards, tied for the most in the league. Their missed tackles (89) and missed tackle percentage (11.2 percent) are ranked 17th and 12th in the NFL, respectively, and they rank 30th in third-down conversion percentage given up at 46.5 percent.
Those numbers are even worse over their three-game losing streak. The 38.7 points per game and 58.8 percent third-down conversion rate allowed in that span are the worst in the NFL. They are second-worst over the last three games in missed tackle percentage (13.6 percent), and their 25 missed tackles are fourth most. The 15 pass plays they have allowed of 20 or more yards the last three games are tied for the most in the league.