Playbook Changes Will Show in New Defensive Coaching Staff

Paula LehmanCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  Mike Mitchell #34 of the Oakland Raiders runs drills during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Al’s gonna have it his way.

One thing about the Raiders’ playbook is that it’s consistent. Al loves the long ball and the Raiders’ biggest struggle is finding a coaching staff that’s willing to submit to these restrictions. The offensive coaching changes—Tom Cable as head coach, Ted Tollner as passing game coordinator, and Jim Michalczik as offensive line coach—will not make many changes to the playbook but rather perfect the old school model Oakland has used for years—hopefully.

The big change will come from new defensive coaching staff.  First addition: defensive coordinator John Marshall. The Raiders have struggled against the rush as they are used to practicing against an offense that is based on the long ball. But Marshall has experience with defense closer to the scrimmage line. With the Seahawks, Marshall’s defense allowed only one 100-yard rusher and finished second in rushing TDs allowed with a mere five.

As one reader commented on one of my earlier blog posts, “Al's way is sound and executable, it just requires rethinking the modern game then beating it.” The modern game is the rush. With players like LaDainien Tomlinson, a former Raider, and Shaun Alexander being given MVP awards within the last four years, it’s obvious that the offensive game in football is moving closer and closer to the scrimmage line.

In this sense, whether they had a say or not, the coaches will have something to work with with the addition of second-round draft pick Michael Mitchell. It seemed curious to many why Mitchell, who comes from non-football power Ohio University, was the Raiders’ second round pick. But the defense needs a strong safety to put big hits on the rush.

Mitchell had 36 solo tackles in his senior year at Ohio. But that’s college ball. New defensive backs coach Lionel Washington will have to train Mitchell to put the hurt on more aggressive runners and short passes.

Washington is another wise addition to the defensive coaching staff, having groomed the 2005 Green Bay Packers’ defensive backs to lead the league in fewest passing yards allowed per game. Asomugha and Johnson, already groomed by past defensive coordinators for the Raiders, will have to be mentors for the young team but they will succeed having been one of the best secondaries in the league in 2008.

The practice field for the Raiders should become more exciting place with these new coaching changes. The playbook may not change but the team will benefit from better execution on both sides of the ball.