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Ken Norton Jr.: Raiders' defense 'going to surprise you'

The days of snickering at the Oakland Raiders are over, according to Ken Norton Jr.

The team's new defensive coordinator believes that the Silver and Black will upstage their doubters this autumn, just one year after Oakland finished last in the league in sacks and gave up an NFL-worst 28.3 points per game.

"I saw a group that needed a little leadership, a little direction and a little taste of myself," Norton told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I really believe in my background. I bring a lot of energy and a lot of confidence. We're going to be tough and fundamentally sound. ... I have been involved with a lot of really good football teams, and this group is right on par at this point. They are going to surprise you."

Norton arrives from Seattle, where he served as linebackers coach for half a decade, helping to morph a young Seahawks defense into the NFL's most fearsome unit. The former Cowboys and Niners star sees that same potential in Raiders players like Khalil Mack and D.J. Hayden, telling the Chronicle what he expects from them and the rest of the squad in 2015.

"Fast, mean, tough," said Norton. "We know what we have. We have a good group. We have good veterans, good young players and good middle players, and I think they are hungry. ... Competition is everywhere for this defense, and it's really an exciting time for this group."

We're definitely in trope territory when coaches are gushing over last year's leakiest defense, but we do believe in Mack as one of the NFL's most promising young defenders. If the players around him grow accordingly, the Raiders are bound to improve come September. Realistically, they can't get any worse.

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