Struggling Jaguars running game has to wake up against awful Raiders defense

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jaguars' running game could get a big boost on Sunday.

It won't come from a transaction or scheme change, but from Jacksonville's next opponent. 

To say the Oakland Raiders struggle against the run would be an understatement. Former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio's current defense ranks 30th against the run, giving up 132.2 rushing yards per game. Oakland's allowing 4.5 yards per carry, which puts them tied for 28th in the NFL. They've also allowed eight rushing touchdowns in six games.

While you may be thinking the Raiders have been gashed for big runs - stacking their poor totals - the truth is they've just been attacked with consistency by opponents. Oakland has only given up five running plays that have gained more than 20 yards and only one went for over 40.

Teams have converted 46 first downs off running plays against the Raiders. Only the San Francisco 49ers (57) have surrendered more first downs against run. 

Remember, the Raiders are 4-2 and put up 25.3 yards per game. Still, teams haven't had to abandon the run against Oakland because - get this - it's worked.

We know that the Jaguars running backs have struggled (and that may also be an understatement) to find holes and make plays on the ground.

In fact, the Jaguars are ranked 31st in the league with 71 rushing yards per game. The unit's average per carry doesn't reflect much better, as they are 28th in NFL with 3.3 yards per attempt.

If the Jaguars can't find a way to be successful on the ground against the Raiders, they may never rebound on the run. 

The boost in confidence for the Jaguars should be that they fared well against the 25th-ranked Indianapolis Colts run defense. The London trip was a good one for the Jaguars, as Jacksonville's running backs produced 100 rushing yards on 22 carries. The 4.5 yards per carry average was the group's best showing of the season.

The Jaguars struggled against the Top 5 run defenses of Green Bay Packers (2nd), San Diego Chargers (5th) and Baltimore Ravens (1st) in the team's first three games. That's understandable, most teams struggle against Top 5 run defenses (hint: that's why they're at the top of the list). 

However, the concern comes from the Jaguars' running game's ineptitude against the 19th-ranked Chicago Bears in Week 6. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon combined for 53 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. The duo's 3.1 yards per carry mark actually sank below their already putrid average.

The Jaguars offensive line failed to open consistent holes and the running backs weren't able to improvise into big gains against the Bears.

Jacksonville shouldn't have a problem finding holes against the Raiders. Just last week, Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware gashed Oakland for 131 rushing yards and a touchdown. Ware isn't a bad running back by any means - he was averaging 71 yards per game heading in the Week 6 win - but he nearly doubled his norm against Del Rio's group.

Similarly to Ware, Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West took advantage of playing the Raiders. He posted 113 rushing yards and a touchdown against Oakland in Week 4. While West has been fantastic in his three starts this season, the Raiders allowed his largest total yards output so far. He was also able to consistently pile on against Oakland, averaging 5.4 yards per carry on 21 attempts. That's pretty impressive when you consider his longest run was for 21 yards.

The point is that if Ware and West can take advantage of the Raiders' run defense, the Jaguars should at least be able to catch fire in comparison to their previous outings. If Jacksonville can't own the ground against Oakland, it may be time to make serious changes.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.


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