It is certainly a "new day" in Oakland, as head coach Dennis Allen pointed out in his press conference. The latest development comes in the form of new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. And with his arrival, the Raiders look to be in for a new defensive scheme.
To say Tarver is well-versed in the 3-4 would be an understatement of sorts. He coached at Stanford last season and prior to that he had been on the 49ers coaching staff for ten seasons. In every one of those seasons, the team for which he coached ran the 3-4 defense.
He started out in the NFL with the 49ers as Defensive Quality Control in 2001. He was promoted to outside linebackers coach in 2005 and held that position for the 49ers for six seasons — and four different head coaches. During his time there, the linebackers enjoyed considerable success under his tutelage. He got the best seasons out of Manny Lawson and Ahmad Brooks in 2009. Both had career highs in sacks and forced fumbles that season while the 49ers had the fourth ranked defense in the NFL.
Last season, when David Shaw replaced Jim Harbaugh as head coach at Stanford, Shaw offered Tarver the job of co-defensive coordinator with the Cardinal. Tarver accepted and he instituted the same 3-4 defense with the Cardinal as he had coached with the 49ers over six seasons. The results spoke for themselves.
Last season Stanford had one of the best defenses in the nation. The Cardinal ranked either first or second in the conference in six defensive categories, including rushing defense (1st; 84.4), third-down conversion defense (1st; 31.1), scoring defense (2nd; 21.9), total defense (2nd; 337.6), sacks per-game (2nd; 3.0), and opponent first downs (2nd; 17.5). Stanford finished third nationally in rushing defense, sixth in third down conversion defense (31.0; 51-164), and 11th in sacks per game (3.0).
If we were talking about an SEC school like LSU or Alabama, being one of the best defenses in all of college football wouldn't mean a whole lot. Those schools routinely get the best defenders in the nation to play for them and therefore they dominate the competition. But, while Stanford is no San Jose State, they aren't at the top of many recruiting lists either. And they also suffer somewhat for having higher GPA entry standards. The difference is coaching.
The Raiders recognized Tarver's coaching prowess and hired him as the defensive coordinator. Tarver was not their first choice but only because he was a college coach and the team exhausted their NFL coaching search before looking at the college ranks.
Other coaches in whom the Raiders showed interest were Chiefs secondary coach Emmitt Thomas, Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson, Broncos linebacker coach Richard Smith, former Chargers and 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and Packers secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr.
Of these candidates, Manusky, Whitt Jr, and Thomas all are from 3-4 defensive backgrounds. Manusky was the only candidate of the bunch who actually interviewed, as the others' teams denied the Raiders permission. Manusky has also worked in the 3-4 as a defensive coordinator for the past five years and going back to 2004 when he was the linebackers coach with the Chargers.
Manusky was the defensive coordinator for the 49ers during the years in which Tarver was the outside linebackers coach. But while the Raiders passed on hiring Manusky, they found their guy in Tarver.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie spent 18 seasons in the Packers' front office while the Packers ran the 3-4 scheme. He also played as a 3-4 with the Raiders in the early 90's. He said in his press conference announcing him as the new GM that his choice of a head coach was not dependent upon whether they came from a 3-4 defensive scheme or a West Coast offensive scheme. He also said that Dennis Allen would be picking his own staff but emphasized that this was a "team effort" between him and Allen.
Allen himself in his press conference said he is not a believer in labeling a defensive scheme.
"I think a lot of times way too much is made out of whether you're a 4-3 or a 3-4," said Allen. "That's just amount of defensive linemen or linebackers that you put out on the field. We're gonna be multiple in the way that we line up. We're gonna do a lot of different things on defense. Again, we going to be attacking and aggressive in a bunch of different areas. I don't really get hung up on the 4-3, 3-4 personnel. We're going to find out what our players can do best. We're going to put them in the best situation that we can so that we can play the game at the highest level."
Going by this explanation of what Allen would like to see in the Raiders' defense, we can expect a hybrid style defense much like we saw when John Marshall was coaching in Oakland in 2010. The Raiders gave a lot of different looks to the offense and the result was more blitzes than we had seen in Oakland in a long time. It also resulted in some of the best sack numbers in the NFL. The same defenders last season under Bresnahan saw a drastic drop in productivity. Again, the difference is coaching.
And if Allen and Tarver believe this team is ready for the 3-4 defense this season, they will make the switch. If not, it will begin as a 4-3 base with 3-4 plays mixed in until the team has the personnel to do it.
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Latest coaching rumor: USC receivers coach Ted Gilmore has been signed. I presume in the same role here as the receivers coach.
I guess I will take a wait and see approach. The thing that worries me is that we have what is essentially a Rookie GM since he never held the position before, who hired a rookie head coach, since he never held the position before, who has hired a rookie defensive coordinator. The only person on the coaching staff that actually has experience at the role they are now playing is Greg Knapp, and there is a mixed verdict on him. It would have been nice if at least in one of these positions we could have gotten somebody with a proven track record. It may work out great, it may not. I really don't know how to read it. All I know is we were not all that far off last year. I don't want to see a complete start from scratch approach. We have been waiting a long time, this fan base deserves a winning team already.
@Jososi I respectfully disagree. I think they might not have previous experience in their current jobs, but they all have proven track records. They all have a very impressive records and they've been in this business for many years. It may work, it may not, but lack of experience won't play a role there. I know we all want the Raiders to win today (I think we all want them to win yesterday), but if you just keep trying to hit the jackpot every year we will be where we were after loosing the superbowl: With a talented team being hit by free agency and salary cap, growing too old to keep the best level in a league where everybody keeps getting better. We need a team that's gonna compete this year and the next one and many years from now. I think this fanbase deserves it.
I see your point. These guys are not right off the street. They have been in the business for years and have established themselves as being very good at what they have done. The point I am making is that each of them is handling a new role for the first time. This does not always work out. Loook at Norv Turner. A great offensive coordinator, but a terrible coach. Or look at Nolan, a great defenbseive coordinator, but a terrible coach. Everyone has to get their first shot sometime, I get that, but to do it straight across the board seems to be taking a lot of chances on a lot of people simultaneously. If you are going to have a first time GM and a first time HC, it would seem like it would be prudent to have an experienced OC and DC. Again, I know we have not lived up to expectations in the last two years, but at leas there were expectations. This team has a core now. It seems that this should be built off of, not demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.
For those who haven't watched this.... Our new DC Jason Tarver on coaching defences..
Is wishing a little bit this could have gone the route with the OC. I like the fact I have really no idea how this is going to work, that like Allen, Tarver is going to bring fresh ideas into a a defensive unit that is/was desperately lacking over the last 6/7 years until 2010 where Marshall gave it a kickstart again only for Chucky to completely wreck it again!
I am now really interested who Allen and Tarver can bring in as their DL, LB, DB coaches and assistant coaches. I am assuming from the lack of hires that Allen wanted to sit down with his appointed DC and discuss with him. Which, is probably a good idea, everyone needs to be on the same page. A bit like Knapp getting in Pollack.
I would like to think that, like with Big Wiz as assistant OL coach who was only with us for 1 year & no previous coaching experience of merit that Woodson would be back for another year. We did have quite a few picks last year and it was mainly due to scheme that the CB's were left so open.
Although I guess that as we had so much trouble with getting teams to let position coaches come for the coordinators job, we'll find it just as hard getting positional coaches.
By the looks of things I think Woodson is going to the Bengals. I am hoping Darren Sharper is bought in to help with coaching the secondary. I think he has all the right tools to make an excellent Safeties / Secondary coach.
@nilbymouth@ukraider78 Sahrper was such an excellent player, I'd love to see what he can do as a coach. About Woodson, unlike the Wiz he was ultimately responsible for what the secondary looked. I mean, Wiz was assistant OL coach, Woodson and Biekert weren't assistants to nobody, and their units looked terrible. Yes, I hate the defense Chuck played, but Stanford Routt and Litto Shepard played just awful most of the year. DVD and Chimdi Chekwa just weren't unable to step up. I think Rod Woodson will become an excellent coach one day, but I'm not sure when that's gonna happen.
@nilbymouth@ukraider78 Yeah. I can see your point. It's just I'm not sure he's ready to teach all the fundamentals to rookie cornerbacks since I never saw Chekwa and Van Dyke showing improvement there. They were both plagued by injuries, but never got a glimps of getting better. Now, what happened with Sheppard was just terrible. Dude never had the speed to cover. The whole season he was running behind his man. Stanford Routt wasn't really bad if you see the cold numbers, but he did give up some really big plays. I think he was just lacking some focus... anyway, what I say is he was ultimately responsible for the performance and development of those guys and they had a bad year. It's no surpirse they wouldn't bring him back like they did with the Wiz.
I don't put much blame on Woodson and give him a bit of a pass for the Cornerback play. It's not Woodson's fault that one of our starting CBs (Chris Johnson) was out for most the season and Chekwa and DVD were injured for a lot of the year. Shepard was all he had to work with! Plus Woodson wasn't the one calling Zone coverage when our DBs mostly play Man-to-Man.
Still I think Sharper would be a better secondary coach although he is probably more geared to coach Safeties than the Cornerbacks.
I think the coaches need to decide if their personal way of running things will trump the current roster we have, and how it fits. The biggest mistakes of our coaches the last decade have been not using a system that fit to our players strengths. This is where Hue was somewhat successful.
I think we do a combination of 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. I think the 3-4 works if we allow the corners to play man, and the LBs and safeties play zone. But we don't have the D-Line for 3-4; so I think unless we completely overhaul the defensive roster; 3-4 doesn't seem to fit as the one and only system.
The same with the O-Line, ZBS alone doesn't seem to fit with the guys we have upfront. I think we will run a combination of ZBS and Power Blocking. We struggled with ZBS, but we did have different guys on the line when we tried to run ZBS; but once we made the switch back to Power Blocking; we were more physical on offense again.
So do we sacrifice wins for failure because the coaches neglect the strengths of how team was built so they can run what they are comfortable with? Or do they continue to operate according to our strengths for the majority, while tweaking the system as we go? From what I hear, it will be the latter. So before we get too excited about going to one system over the other; I don't think that is how it is going to work up front. We may build the team to make it switch in the future; but for immediate success, no.
To be honest, the way the League is becoming more and more of QB-passing League, the best defensive scheme may be to Nickel and Dime it....
@Raider Nate 75 I agree, coaches should see what they have and work with the best scheme for them. That being said, I think we are a true blood nose tackle to be a legit 3-4 defense. I mean, Richard Seymour played most of his career as a 3-4 DE and Lamarr Houston has played both DE and DT so he might switch easiyly to be a 3-4 DE. Even John Henderson could be a legit 3-4 NT if he were younger (and he could be an excellent substitute). I'm not convinced with McClain/Curry playing ILB, ando I'm not sure Travis Goethel could be a solution, but Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley looks like a very nice OLB tandem.
@Black_Nightmare I think if we do get a NT and look to switch to 3-4, then we should take a look at Sam Acho at LB (Texas). He would be a good pick up in the later rounds.
I don't think we find a NT in the draft, that is a free agent signing if we go that rout. I think we should strive for that, and build for it; but with the talk of having the talent now to win, and switching the schemes on both sides of the ball will cause us not to win now.
So scheme to win now, while building your team to fit your scheme to win the future. Do that and it is a win-win.
I am not to fussed about the lack of experience on the defense side. Allen has some experience play calling and everyone has to begin somewhere. There may be a few mistakes along the way, but if these coaches can put the defense in a position to make some plays we can have a top 10 defense and a top 10 offense,
If anything I am really loving the youthfulness of these two (Allen and Tarver). They are going to bring a intensity and discipline to this team that I don't think this defense has had much of in the past. I am just imagining them bringing Romo in as some form of assistant coach too teach these players how to hunt for their own bacon!
@RaiderDoc Even just calling, watch where the ball goes and run after it will be more effective than Chucks stand 10 yards off your man, when he comes try and tackle him, if he goes past you hope there is a man standing behind you to make another tackle, oh , there isn't TD... prevent style defence.
I am loving this hire. Tarver and Allen I think are really going to make this a very good defense. Trevor Scott could really excel if it's a hybrid defense similar to what Marshall ran.
@nilbymouth Yeah, call me a sentimental, but I also expect for a hybrid since if this is a true 3-4 defense, Matt Shaugnessy is on his way out of Oakland. He doesnt fit neither as a DE nor as an OLB on a 3-4 scheme. I'd really hate to see such a great Raider having to go just cause he doesn't fit. Trevor Scott on the other side was born to play OLB, he's a mediocre DE and a terrible linebacker when he's in a 4-3 scheme. Hopefuly a hybrid scheme would bring out the best of this defense.
Defensively, this could be a very good hire. Tarver did a terrific job at Stanford, and Levi is 100% right about the quality of coaching that went on their. Compared to teams like LSU, and even my beloved USC, the entry standards of Stanford is way more difficult, and is definitely among the highest in all college, creating a very limited recruiting class. Compound this by the fact that once an athlete gets into Stanford, the academic regimen is so brutal, that only a special kind of student athlete can endure it. Tarver has to be given props for Stanford's defensive performance, and the Raiders may have found and signed a real gem...
you dont need a great dt, just a couple big bodys to plug in their to take up space and blockers to allow your lb's to make plays (which is our problem, they dont make enough) mostly by scheme. i think last season when marshall was here we were 2nd or 3rd in the league in sacks, right with green bay and pittsburgh. man, chuck b really came and screwed things up
@massillonraider I'll take your word for it but the best 3-4 teams have a great NT. In the 4-3 it's different when it comes to DT's because it's less area that each one is in charge of. The lineup we have right now really doesn't have anyone who could play a natural NT other than Henderson. You are right about Chuck B being a screw up tho. Marshall wasn't perfect but aside from that jags games; I thought Marshall did a pretty good job (at least good enough for one more year).
@antonioswancy@massillonraider I agree, no NT has the best numbers within a 3-4 defense, but no 3-4 defense can actually work without a true blood NT. There will be a few free agents out there like Paul Soliai, Antonio Garay and Aubrayo Franklin who coul have a solid play there. We also have a NT at the Reserve/Future list, his name is Travis Ivey, he's 6'4" and 325 pounds, so he might get a really good shot this year.
Personally I really like Franklin and think if a hybrid defense were to be run he would be ideal seen he has experience as both a 3-4 NT and playing in a 4-3 system. But either Seymour or Kelly would have to go I think. I wouldn't be fazed on either leaving, or even both if we could get Franklin. Bryant has shown good ability playing DT and would be even better next to a space eater like Franklin. And Houston in my opinion is better suited to a DT in a 4-3 than DE.
This will be interesting. From what I have read and seen, Tarver ran a hybrid 3-4 scheme while at Stanford. I would compare it to that of maybe the Patriots. They have a scheme that allows them to use 4-3 or 3-4 interchangeably. I hope we run more of a hybrid scheme considering that we have some lineman that are best suited for 4-3 as well as no true NT other than Henderson (who is old). I would like to see how Kelly would fair at NT (I would also like him to gain like 20 lbs if he did).
we have DBs that run mostly man-to-man.. until that current cast changes, i suggest we stick to that mostly... simply because of this last season's examples. chucky b couldn't understand this... and that's why we didn't go to the playoffs. ANYONE is better than that man... if we can look like John Marshall's D with a good size upgrade in stopping the run, this team is going places, as long as we can match the same output in the PPG ... that's up to Knapp. *GULP*
@antonioswancy he wouldn't fair well he didn't play well until he lost weight