Tarver has overseen a remarkable improvement on the defense while incorporating 10 new starters who mostly came in with little fanfare.
The Raiders went browsing through the bargain basement to bring in many of the newcomers, signing five free agents to one-year deals. Only the addition of Charles Woodson generated much interest while players like cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, linebackers Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett and defensive linemen Pat Sims, Vance Walker and Jason Hunter were under-the-radar additions.
“Probably a lot of people outside of this area, outside of this building probably don’t know a lot about who these no-name guys are on defense but we have a lot of guys who are pretty good football players,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I think a lot of these guys that we brought in here kind of have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. They want to prove that they’re worthy of being top-notch players in this league.”
The man putting all those parts together is Tarver, who has a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and boundless energy that comes through on the sideline and in the meeting rooms.
That gave him some unwanted notoriety last week against Pittsburgh. In the third quarter, an official threw a flag on Jenkins for an illegal hit to the head of a defenseless receiver.
The call set Tarver off and he was caught by television cameras screaming an obscenity at the officials and twice making the one-fingered gesture. He was forced to apologize the following day and was disciplined by the team.
“Everybody around here, we love it,” Jenkins said. “It shows that he has a lot of passion for the game. He’s just into the game. We feed off that, knowing he has our back.”
Tarver has nothing to apologize for when it comes to how well his defense is playing. The performance is quite a surprise considering how overmatched that unit looked in the preseason when the Raiders allowed the opposition to score on 16 of 18 first-half drives, excluding one kneel-down possession.
It looked like it would be more of the same when Indianapolis scored touchdowns on the first two drives of the season opener, but Oakland’s defense has been extremely stout since then, with the exception of one game against Peyton Manning and the high-powered Broncos.
The Raiders are allowing 21.4 points per game — down more than six points from last year’s average of 27.7 that was the worst for the franchise since 1961.
“We’ve been good at times, but we’ve got to be good all the time,” Tarver said. “You turn bad into good, good into great. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Raiders vs. Eagles
WHEN: Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: O.co Coliseum, Oakland
TV: Fox (KTVU, Ch. 2)
RADIO: KGMZ (95.7 FM)