For the past few years now the question has been asked: will the Raiders switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme? Well, it appears there is some evidence that time may have finally come.
The most recent clue came from new General Manager Reggie McKenzie. I asked him during the Raiders' press conference whether his experience in the 3-4 and the West Coast offense would play any part in who he selected in a head coach. This was his response:
"Ultimately, no. But once we get down to specifics and the presentation and I look into that, yes. That's what I'm familiar with. But I'm OK with anything that works and helps you win. But that is what I'm accustomed to."
McKenzie is indeed very familiar with the 3-4 defense -- the defense the Packers have deployed during his time as an executive there. It is also the scheme in which he played during his days as a Raider.
The Raiders were a long time 3-4 defense. In fact they won all three of their Super Bowls in the scheme. While Al Davis was a hard-nosed believer in the man defense, he once was a firm believer in the 3-4 defense as well.
The reason the rumor of a 3-4 switch has been swirling in recent years is the player acquisitions the Raiders have been making. First they traded for 3-4 defensive end Richard Seymour from the Patriots. Since then they have traded for 3-4 outside linebackers Kamerion Wimbley, Quentin Groves, and Aaron Curry. In the draft, they have chosen players like Lamarr Houston who was a defensive tackle in college and then switched him to defensive end. They also chose Travis Goethel who is an ideal inside linebacker.
The most recent signing that holds some hint of a scheme switch went under the radar: the signing of nose tackle Travis Ivey to a Reserve/Futures contract. Yes, I said nose tackle. Signing a player who is a nose tackle by trade is one bit of evidence. But if you go to the Raiders' roster page, they even have him listed as a nose tackle. A 4-3 defense doesn't have nose tackles.
Getting back to what McKenzie said, his primary reason for firing Hue Jackson was that he wanted his guy in there. Well, being with the Packers for 18 years would suggest that one of his guys would have coached for the Packers. This would make his top head coaching candidates 3-4 guys as well.
The top candidate right now appears to be Packers linebackers coach and assistant head coach, Winston Moss. Moss is another player who once suited up in the Silver & Black during his playing days. And, like McKenzie, Moss played linebacker in the Raiders' 3-4 defense. He has now coached the linebackers for the past six seasons in Green Bay and has served as the assistant head coach for the past five seasons.
So, what would the Raiders' current roster look like in a 3-4 defense? The only issues I see are not having a legit nose tackle and having an over-abundance of starter quality talent on the defensive line. There is, of course, the issue of not having enough linebackers, but that will always be an issue when a team makes the switch from 4-3 to 3-4.
Trevor Scott has played both defensive end and linebacker for the Raiders. He could be switched to 3-4 OLB as a backup to Wimbley. Rolando McClain would be far more suited for inside linebacker than middle linebacker because he would no longer be in charge of lining up the entire defense. He also wouldn't have to cover three inside gaps along the line by himself — a duty at which he has failed thus far.
The other outside linebacker spot would be a bit of a question mark. The Raiders have two outside linebackers on the team currently that could fill the spot in Aaron Curry and Quentin Groves. Groves is likely moving on and Curry will either benefit from the switch or get benched in favor of a free agent acquisition. It is also possible Scott could move to that side and start as well.
The Raiders have an abundance of players who could line up at 3-4 defensive end. The question then becomes who starts where and who gets benched.
Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are the main issues on the defensive line. Both are best suited for 4-3 defensive tackle. Kelly is more suited for 3-4 defensive end than nose tackle. Seymour is a former 3-4 DE, however the switch to 3 technique defensive tackle resurrected his career. As a 3-4 DE in New England, he hadn't made the Pro Bowl in his final two seasons there as well as his first season playing DE in Oakland. He has now made two straight Pro Bowls since being switched to defensive tackle. A switch back to defensive end might not be the best idea for him and his talents would be wasted at nose tackle. At 335 lbs, John Henderson has the body to play nose tackle but there is no telling if he would accept that role and he isn't an every down player at this stage of his career anyway.
The other starters are Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston. Shaughnessy is the clearcut starter if the Raiders were forced to choose between them. If both were to start outside, it would mean that one of either Seymour or Kelly would be benched and I don't see that happening. So Houston would likely take a backseat in the deal. Desmond Bryant would make for an ideal 3-4 defensive end and would provide very solid depth behind whomever starts.
The switch presents some issues at first and it won't be ideal. But rarely are fresh starts easy. And with McKenzie's eye for talent, especially for 3-4 linebackers, there could be some new pieces brought into the mix that would contribute immediately and make the switch far more seamless than it would be otherwise.
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It really looks like the Raiders are going to implement the 3-4 defense. I just don't see the 4-3 even being a possibility, especially if Winston Moss is hired as our head coach. Hope the Raiders can trade up in the draft and select a solid nose tackle. Only time will tell.....
At this moment, the Raiders have the talent to run a DOMINANT 4-3 if it's coached right. The problem this year wasn't the talent, it was the coaching from Bresnahan.
Some exceptions to your logic...
1. Curry has never played in a 3-4, he was MLB in Wake Forest's 4-3 and an OLB in Pete Carrol's 4-3 in Seattle.
2. The reason Oakland got Wimbley...a former 4-3 DE...so cheap is because he COULDN'T play in the 3-4.
3. Quentin Groves was also a 4-3 DE that was converted because he couldn't put on enough weight to play with his hand in the dirt.
There is a LOT more work to do other than a few pieces here and there. I think you're right about McKenzie bringing in someone from GB, probably Moss, but until then, no one will know.
If I were in charge, I'd call Steve Spagnuolo or Jack Del Rio and sign them to a one year deal to run the defense. Then worry about changing to a 3-4 when we have the draft picks and cap room to make the switch for real.
you dont need a pro bowl dt, they dont fall off trees. you have to make em with players around him. most good dt are big space eaters that hold up the oline so linebackers can run free and make players. yea, if you get a hold of a raji then your lucky. the 3-4 is proving to be a good d. broncos switched to it, their d improved. texans d improved, even green bay switched to it a couple years ago. im just waiting to see who gets this job. its nerve racking, but its exciting. also, one last thing thats totally off the subject, the next time i read someone posting on any raider site that we should trade mcfadden, im a jump off a bridge somewhere. that is just absolutely ridiculous. people keep saying if we had him this season more we would have made the playoffs, which i agree, so how does trading him make us better?
I have to say I loved your question Levi but I didn't like his answer to you
"Ultimately, no." said McKenzie. "But once we get down to specifics and the presentation and I look into that, yes. That's what I'm familiar with. But I'm OK with anything that works and helps you win. But that is what I'm accustomed to." So you mean YES.. ..
A lot of Mckenzies and Davis answers were very contradictory... I am hoping this was not a sign of things to come... Davis certainly seemed well out of his depth and if anything ended up irritating me more than anything....
Now back to your article - The signs are pointing to 3 - 4, but, I am really unsure as like @ChristopherMooney I really think you need a top class NT to succeed. There is no guarantee you can pick one up in the draft and the best chance we would have would be in FA as again, a team would want a high price for their decent NT.... I would prefer to wait and stick to 4-3 until the right player becomes available.
Another reason I wouldnt really want us to switch, Mike Waufle would out of the job and he is a fantastic coach... and it would be a shame to lose him.
However, one way round this could be going straight back to the Packers.. How about franchising Michael Bush and then trading Bush to the Packers for BJ Raji... I can imagine Bush being amazing at Lambeau... however... would they want to trade Raji for Bush! I doubt it! Raji is more important to them.
I read something that said Curry would most likely be an ILB. I know because of his speed the instinct would be to move him outside but we all know what happens when he has to make reads and play in space. He is 6'2 250lb so he has the size to play inside where the mental aspects are minimal and he can use his athleticism to just react. Good call on the Capers call Chris though with a 48-80 record I hope we go with Moss. There is a reason Green Bay added the assistant coach to his title to keep him, I'd like the opportunity to discover what that was. One more prognostication and well have to start calling you the 'East Bay Orical'.haha
By the way, I don't see Oakland switching until they can get a pro bowl level nose tackle from somewhere. An every down guy.
Most 3-4 defenses are terrible, unless they have a quality guy at nose.
In the modern NFL, being a 3-4 team just means that you play maybe 65% of your downs in that formation. Green Bay still run a lot of 4-3 plays.
As for McClain, you're being way too critical. He had a similar season to Rich Seymour. A mix of big plays, and just not showing up.
It's definitely going to be an interesting off-season. I think McKenzie is the type of GM that will pick his Head Coach, then let the Head Coach decide on his own DC and let then work with them on what formation we will see being used.
If 3-4 is the way, unfortunately Shaughnessy could be the odd man out which will be a shame because I really like this guy. On the plus I think he could garner a decent draft pick in return. I think it also helps that there could be a few quality NT in Free Agency this year which will make the change over a little easier. I also wouldn't be surprised to seeing one or both of Seymour and Kelly going. They are both being paid probably a little to much for a 3-4 DE and Houston and Dez Bryant could both be a solid starter pairing as 3-4 DEs.
While he may have no connection to McKenzie I also hope the coaching staff bring Romo in as some sort of LB coach or trainer. I have always loved this guys intensity and passion and after his rant a few weeks ago, you know he still has it in him to fire these guys up and probably be willingly to work for peanuts.
Looking forward to see how the new coaching carousel ends up, and to see whether we actually will be moving to the 3-4 as has been the indication of late!
At least we are better set than most when contemplating the scheme switch, so it comes down to some key positions! Wouldn't be too surprised to see some of our favourites go, and wouldn't be surprised to see our D-Line personel changed drastically, especially if we change to the 3-4! Seymore may be kept because of his history with the 3-4, but TK and Shaughnessey could be odd men out in that equation (mainly because Shaughnessey might bee too small to be a 3-4 DE and too slow and not agile enough to be the 3-4 Rush OLB, which is also considered Wimbleys job) - Calais Campbell (3-4 DE) and Paul Soliai (NT) would definately help create the new D-Line, and i bet Reggie has a list of players who is worthy and able to come in and improve the team. Will be interesting to see who it will be that is in and out of the team!
Seems that Reggie has big plans and wants to create the foundation in his mold from the start - I really think we will be surprised at some of the moves that will be made, and that some fan favourites may leave before the new season! Difficult to pin point who will be in the spotlight, but based on what Reggie said, it is those who are not hard workers, those who doesn't fit the scheme and those who could potentially bring in some valuable draft picks!
@LeviDamien love the idea of switching to 3-4. maybe we can trade some of the depth we have at DL for somr picks or other needs.
@LeviDamien do you think we would be better as a 3-4?
@massillonraider Raji sucks right now for the Pack. One of the most over-hyped under performing players in the game. I wanted him but glad we didn't pick him.
@massillonraider When the Broncos hired John Fox, they switched back to the 4-3, I believe.
I think what McKenzie is saying is that he is a 3-4 guy but who ever the DC is that is picked by the HC (as he has said previously that the HC will pick his own staff) will ultimately determine what formation defense they play. I think McKenzie will have some say in the staff, like maybe making some recommendations, but again I do think he will leave it up to the HC to pick his own team of staff.
I feel the exact same way about Capers and Moss. There was a reason he was named Assistant Head Coach. Capers is a good DC but I don't think he has the talent to be a HC. Maybe Moss is the reverse and has the skills to be a great HC but not DC.
Look at some of the better NT in the league the last few years though. Very few are drafted early, most mid-late round picks:
Sione Pouha: 3rd Round pick
Soliai: 4th Round pick
Franklin, Kyle Williams: 5th Round pick
Gregg, Garay: 6th Round pick
Ratliff: 7th Round pick
@nilbymouth Looking for some boar hunters? Screw the market! I will go kill my own bacon! lol
I think that we probably could play Shaughnessy at OLB and play Curry at ILB. I think that Seymour could be the odd man out as he is getting paid 15M vs. like 8M for Kelly. But we might get better pick compensation for Kelly though.
@Harder2000 It'd be too expensive to sign both Campbell and Soliai. Seymour could go if he doesn't restructure his $15M salary, but Kelly could bring in better comp in terms of picks.
I agree. If I was running the show, I'd have McClain and Curry as my inside LB in that formation.
Curry has weaknesses, but is great at stuffing the run. If all you asked him to do was attack the running back, he'd get 100+ tackles a year
@RiceBowlHaircut That was my thinking as well! Would also allow Death Ro (if he is retained) to roam a little bit more freely! Think Curry would be a really good fit in there - big, strong, fast and a easy fast read!