Dennis Allen Brings in a New Defensive Philosophy to the Oakland Raiders
Elias Trejo – May 24, 2012
After Hue Jackson was fired by the new regime he left a few quotes that will follow him forever. One thing he did say is something that everyone has known, but hasn't payed much attention to. Al Davis ran the defense and the head coach ran the offense as long as it featured some deep balls every once in a while. The Raiders were a man to man defense and played more man to man than any other team in the NFL. They rarely disguised their coverage and didn't have too many complicated blitzes or zone schemes. This made the Raiders defense predictable and after the NFL turned into a passing league, it actually hurt the Raiders run defense as well.
Since 2003 the Raiders have had one of the top ten worst rush defenses in the league each season, except for one year when they were ranked the 11th worst rush defense. There were many reasons the Raiders struggled to stop the run in the last decade, and one of the biggest reasons was their scheme. Playing so much man to man defense caused defensive backs and linebackers who were in coverage to turn their backs to the line of scrimmage and that allowed opposing running backs to gain big yardage. You heard it every year from Raiders players,"You get a few stops and then all of a sudden, BOOM, the other team gets a big play." This was a big achilles' heel for the Raiders and it hurt them for many years. Often their scheme made defensive backs and linebackers look out of place or lost on defense. It also put a lot of pressure on the defensive line to win their one on one battle against the offensive line. If a running back was able to break through the first wave of defenders, often times it meant big yardage for the other team.
Another thing that hurt the Raiders after the league transitioned to a passing league is the way the rules changed to benefit the offense. Calls of pass interference, illegal contact and defensive holding were being called more than ever, and when you play aggressive man to man defense, odds are more flags will be thrown your way. History shows us that referees are more likely to throw a flag against a Raiders player than any other team in the NFL. While some people think this could be a conspiracy theory made up by Raiders fans, you better believe other teams know this is true. The Chiefs recently signed former Raider Stanford Routt, who was one of the most penalized players in the league. Kevin Ross, Routt's former position coach, had this to say.
"If you watched the Oakland Raiders, we were the most penalized team in the league," Ross said on 610 Sports with Nick Wright. "A lot of times, those penalties were not actually penalties. When we reported them back to the league in New York, we send those penalties in, and half the time those came back and they weren't penalties. The fact that he's changing teams, that should go down."
The Raiders have a lot of athletes to match up with the opposing offensive players, but the players were rarely put in positions to make many plays. Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha were a perfect example of this. When Woodson played for the Raiders he was a strong player, but moving to Green Bay made him a Hall of Famer. In 8 seasons with the Raiders Woodson recorded 17 interceptions. In Green Bay, with a different type of scheme, he's recorded 37 interceptions in six years. The Packers defense puts players in positions to make plays. Asomugha rarely was thrown to when he was a Raider, but with the Eagles he is working in a different scheme. He recorded 3 interceptions last year, which is the 2nd most interceptions he's recorded in one season. Interceptions may not be the only stat that matters to defensive backs, but anytime players can create turnovers it's a good thing for the defense.
Oakland's biggest need this offseason was a change in their defensive philosophy. Mark Davis is the new owner of the team and is letting general manager Reggie McKenzie run the show when it comes to the football operations. McKenzie then hired the defensive minded Dennis Allen as the head coach. Allen will bring in a completely new defensive scheme that has never been run in Oakland before.
This adjustment should help the Raiders catch up with the rest of the NFL. In 2011 10 players passed for over 4,000 yards. Compare that to ten years ago when only four players surpassed the 4,000 yard mark. Rich Gannon who had the most passing yards in 2002 with 4,689 yards would have ranked 5th in 2011. This is why a change in philosophy was needed and this is why changes are being made. Players have made comments about the new defense and how excited they are. Michael Huff earlier in the offseason tweeted that he spoke to coach Allen and is excited about the new defense.
Tyvon Branch recently spoke to the media and had this to say, "With this new defense we got, it gives us more opportunities to make plays, so hopefully I make more plays and lead more like that."
Opportunities to make more plays is something that you'll hear often from Oakland defenders in 2012. You'll see more complicated blitz schemes, zone coverages and a complete new philosophy. Stopping the run has been something all coaches have tried and failed to do recently in Oakland, but they never really had control of the defensive scheme. Allen has full control and is changing things, which is why stopping the run and creating more turnovers is something the Raiders will accomplish in 2012.
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