Hue Jackson says that he intends to see improvement from the Oakland Raiders' defense this year because they are going to be in “somewhat of the same system” as they were last year. Two defensive names that he mentioned more than once during his head coach introductory press conference were defensive line coach Mike Waufle and assistant defensive back coach Kevin Ross. While Ross is an unlikely candidate for the position because of his brief NFL resume, Waufle has been mentioned in several media and fan circles and could be a contender.
Jackson was asked directly if Waufle would be the guy, and Jackson seemed to be unsure of the idea. If I had to guess, I would say it’s not really up to him who gets hired for the position, as it has always been Al Davis’ man-to-man coverage with minimal blitzing scheme that has been entrenched in Oakland since the days of the AFL.
While Davis has been associated with the emergence of the NFL vertical passing game (also a staple of the Raiders), he has always been more about the defensive side of the ball. Take for example the fact that the Raiders have only hired one defensive head coach throughout their history, former linebackers coach John Madden. That’s because Davis needs an offensive guru to complement his defensive schemes. But to his credit, Madden was more than just a linebackers coach; he is an all around football minded man. Thus his success as the Raiders’ head coach and in building the whole “Madden” franchise -- the NFL’s 33rd team, so to speak.
Davis gave high praise to Hue Jackson for being able to get the ball in the end zone. Part of the reason -- albeit a small part -- why Tim Coble was fired was that he proved he could not be the “primary play caller” and head coach all in the same suit. By the way, that is not a typo, Tim Coble; if Al won’t give him a new nametag, I will.
Even though Hue proved he can be the leader of men and score points for his boss, Jackson was not given credit for being the reason why the Raiders almost made the playoffs in 2010. It was the defense that Davis cited as the foundation of the team.
Davis said, “We had a shot, with about five games to go, to get into the playoffs. And if we had gotten into the playoffs, there’s no telling how far we could go because we have a defense, if we can keep them together, that is coming of age. They are a tough group; they beat people up. I don’t mean that negatively, but they’re tough. [Other teams] don’t like to play us.”
Other teams “don’t like to play us” because of the defense -- not because the offense is going to run it down your throat or score a lot of points, but because the defense will punch you in the mouth.
Davis referred to Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly as the leaders of the defense, making no mention of Nnamdi Asomugha. Not to say Nnamdi won’t be around in 2011, but Davis also said that $17 million could be spent on two or three quality players. Seymour, if he is going to be worth a first round pick in 2011 and be the first one mentioned when the owner talks about defensive leadership, could be part of that $17 million. Some expect Davis to use his exclusive franchise tag on Seymour again. That would run the Raiders approximately $13.8 million this year if it is applicable in the new CBA. Personally, I think Al will be looking more long term at Seymour. Something more like the Haynesworth-to-Washington deal.
Seymour and Kelly combined for 12.5 of the Raiders' 47 sacks this year. For you mathematicians out there, that is over 25 percent coming from two players in the middle of the defensive line. That is impressive.
Hue Jackson expects that to continue in 2011: “We’ve got to get after the quarterback. We have the best defensive line coach in all of football in my opinion with Mike Waufle. He’s done an excellent job this year and I expect our defensive line to play better than what they played last year.”
Frankly, I don’t know how you get better production from your defensive tackles than that. I guess they could try to get to 12.5 per player. That seems a little ridiculous to me. Rookie Lamarr Houston had five sacks, second year end Matt Shaughnessy had seven, Kamerion Wimbley had nine which included several from the defensive end position in the pass defense packages. Desmond Bryant racked up two and a half and Trevor Scott added one and a half before being placed on IR about halfway through the year. Jarvis Moss, who took Scott’s place, even managed to get one at the end of the season.
The point is that Mike Waufle has reached his potential as a defensive line coach in this league. It’s time for someone to give him a shot at manufacturing an entire defense that is as productive as the units he puts on the field each Sunday as a positions coach.
“This is what I’m looking for from the defense,” said Hue Jackson. “As soon as the other team gets off the bus, they are worried about us hitting them. I want to be very aggressive on defense. That’s who we are, that’s the Raider way. I know that’s what Mike Waufle likes. I know that’s what Kevin Ross likes. We’re going to make sure we go out on defense and we get teams stopped. We’re physical, we’re tough, we’re aggressive and we want to go out there every week and have an opportunity to win the game on defense. We have to, that’s who we’re going to be on defense.”
With all the mentioning of Waufle that Jackson did during his press conference, why shouldn’t the guy who upgrades Mike’s status as a coach be the czar of the Raiders, Al Davis? That guy who wants to take all the credit for introducing some high caliber (Jim Harbaugh, John Fox) coaches to the NFL, the guy who has been scrutinized for his six head coaches in eight years, the guy who wants not to be a loser any more. A combination of Al Saunders, Mike Waufle, and Hue Jackson could be toxic to the Raiders’ opponents in 2011.
After all, Waufle seems to be the perfect fit to the naked eye. Here’s a guy who gets a lot of pressure with his front four without heavy blitzing. Isn’t that exactly what Davis wants?
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