It's no secret that the Raiders' base defense this year will be a 4-3, but who's to say it won't be a little more complicated than that? What is stopping Oakland from occasionally implementing a 3-4 scheme in order to hide weaknesses and confuse the offense?
It seems more and more likely, especially considering that the Raiders have been bringing in a good deal of "tweeners" at defensive end, including Slade Norris and Stryker Sulak. Even Derrick Burgess and recent addition Greg Ellis can fit this label.
One clue to the possibility of a 4-3/3-4 hybrid is the talk coming from head coach Tom Cable and defensive coordinator John Marshall of "stand up" D-ends, although it wasn't specified whether this would be an every-down thing or just on passing downs.
It also wasn't specified whether one or both D-ends would "stand up."
This brings up another question: If a defensive end is in a two-point stance rather than a three, has he become a linebacker?
Another clue to a possible 3-4 look is the recent change in position of former outside linebacker Ricky Brown to the middle, backing up Kirk Morrison.
If the Raiders do occasionally run a 3-4, where the defensive end on Brown's side stands up, thus making him the inside linebacker next to Morrison, it would explain why Brown has been practicing in the middle lately.
If this were to happen, it would only be on occasion and would not be used throughout the game due to a lack of depth in larger defensive linemen.
The transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 would be simple and look something like this: In the base 4-3, the defensive line would consist of Jay Richardson, Gerard Warren, Tommy Kelly, and Ellis or Burgess.
The linebackers would then include Thomas Howard, Morrison, and Brown or possibly Frantz Joseph.
All that needs to be done to change to a 3-4 is a slight line shift and a stance change from Ellis and Brown (or Joseph) to become the inside linebacker.
Of course, I could just be completely wrong and overanalyzing. Maybe the talk of the "stand up" defensive ends is just an added way to improve pass rush.
Maybe tweener defensive ends are being brought in to satisfy owner Al Davis's love for speed.
Maybe Brown is playing middle because Morrison is moving outside or Joseph is an inadequate backup.