Last year's Oakland Raiders defense resembled a Dr Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde situation. They could make big plays as evidenced by being among the NFL leaders in tackles for loss and they could give up big plays as evidenced by being among the league leaders in big plays allowed. This lack of consistency was a significant problem all season.
The question becomes where do the Raiders need to shore up to disallow those big plays. The answers lie in a combination of breakdowns in fundamentals and out of place personnel. The raiders defense needs few player upgrades, but much more discipline.
The Raiders have needed to address the defensive tackle position for the past several offseasons. The combination of Gerard Warren and Tommy Kelly is not getting it done. The bulk of the big plays went right through the middle of the Raiders defense, which can be laid at the feet of the muddle in the middle. Desmond Bryant was solid as a rotational player, and a find as an undrafted free agent out of Harvard.
What the Raiders need is a wide body defensive tackle who is not necessarily going to rack up sacks or statistics, but is going to occupy multiple blockers and clog the running lanes to free up the other defensive linemen, as well as linebackers to make the plays. The Raiders have not won the war in the middle of the defensive trenches in years, and that is where the game is won and lost.
The Raiders have two finesse coverage linebackers in Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison. Beyond those two, the linebacking corps is filled with special teams players such as Jon Alston, Ricky Brown, Sam Williams, and Isaiah Ekejiuba. The play of the linebackers improved when defensive end Trevor Scott was stood up and moved to the outside.
What the Raiders need is a physical presence at linebacker. To borrow from reader DevonRaiderUK an “RB seeking missile.” Too many of Morrison's plays are five to ten yards past the line of scrimmage to be that presence.
The Raiders are set for their starting back four. Mike Mitchell has shown flashes as a third safety for a big nickel type package. However, the Raiders need a quality third corner. Stanford Routt is inconsistent at best, and when he is off his game he is frequently burnt, flagged, or both. Jonathan Holland is listed as a corner, but should not even have a roster spot.
There was an interesting discussion in the comment box on Levi's mock draft regarding his pick of Rolando McClain.
Moshbucket: Saban has one of the most complex/versatile D's out there, constantly switching things up. McLain consistently adjusted the D calls based on what the O was doing at the line.
If you watch tape of our Defense this year, MANY MANY times we were running around not knowing how to line up as the ball was being snapped. We need a guy out there who knows what's going on and can run the D.
DevinRaiderUK: Nice to hear the flip side of the argument Moshbucket but hoping for a Rookie to come in and have a productive year is one thing, giving him the responsibility of the Defensive adjustments is asking a bit much. Surely the DC must shoulder the responsibility there, and you have to remember that it was Marshalls' first year so expect mistakes. I still dont think Marshall has been given full license (yet) to implement exactly what he wants. Al says we go 4-3, no blitzing and basically win the man to man match-ups. That's a very predictable set of handcuffs to work with.
My take: In the America's Game DVD presentation for the 1980 season, rookie linebacker Matt Millen too control of the defensive huddle and barked out the signals. He is credited by Hall of Fame teammates with getting that defense together.
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