This piece is the second in a few in which I attempt to predict what things will change and what will stay the same for Dennis Allen’s second year coaching the Silver & Black. I hope that my predictions turn out to be more accurate than the Mayans’.
In a previous piece I went through the coaching staff and predicted that defensive coordinator Jason Tarver would be back coaching the defense in 2013 and I still think that’s likely. In this piece I will attempt to delve into some of what I think that means for next year’s Raiders defense. This piece will not address all of the many players headed to free agency or that the Raiders may draft, etc – I will do that in a following piece – but more on how the defensive philosophy will change.
Prediction 1: Raiders convert to a 3-4
That is, the Raiders convert to a base 3-4 alignment. They will still run 4-3 alignments but I’m guessing that the Raiders will convert to a 3-4 as their primary (or base) defensive alignment. There are several reasons to believe this will occur.
First, both Allen and Tarver are defensive minded coaches and both have a great deal of history running the 3-4. Tarver, specifically, ran one at Stanford which is where he coached defense before being hired by the Raiders.
More recently, the Raiders have started to experiment with 3-4 looks. Here is a picture from the Raiders/Kansas City game in which the Raiders had 3 down lineman and 4 in the LB position.
In this instance the outside LB positions are actually filled by DE Lamarr Houston and FS Tyvon Branch, both who blitzed on the play. The two ILBs are Miles Burris and Philip Wheeler.
The Raiders also had downs in where they played a 3-3-5 alignment versus both KC and Carolina. A 3-3-5 is when the team has 3 down linemen, 3 linebackers and 5 defensive backs. Usually when they went into this alignment, DE Houston would operate as a standup linebacker on the left side of the defensive line but would either rush or go into coverage – he dropped into coverage across the middle on a zone once, and had an assignment on Jamaal Charles on two downs. On others, he rushed from a stand up position.
Even with Houston’s time as a standup linebacker it’s not likely the team is seriously looking at him as an OLB – he projects much better to a 5 technique DE – that puts him on the outside shoulder of the tackle.
But, it’s significant in that the team is looking at players in a 3 down lineman set to see if it’s something they want to do next year. In terms of personnel, a transition will not get any easier than now. The team has a huge number of free agents – almost half the roster – and will need to get a NT or two regardless of whether they play the 3-4 or the 4-3. They can make the decision, now, as to which way they’d like to go and get a good start on their free agency wish list.