First, introductions. In homage to the pulling power of the Raider Nation, I'm an Oakland fan living in jolly ol' England.
Why do I love the Raiders? Well I'm an NFL fan first and foremost, but I tagged on to the Raiders in 2000 for the simple reason that they have all the traits of my home town soccer team, Newcastle United.
Newcastle United have fanatic support, known around Europe as "The Toon Army". Sounds like jibberish, but "Toon" is actually how we pronounce "Town" up here in the north of England. I'm not joking, we do.......
Newcastle also has a history of having free-spirited, maverick owners, who say "screw you" to the leagues authorities. And it's always been a home for players who have fallen out with other teams, or had disciplinary problems.
A second chance
And also a history of not winning much in the last 20 years, and in general, being the team that the other fans like to have a laugh at.
So I immediately felt an affinity for the Raiders, and all that they stand for.
Just win baby. Don't listen to anyone. Don't care how you do it.
I thought I'd write my first article on the team, about something I read on a blog. A fan was questioning why Oakland dropped the 3-4 in 2004, so quickly. Why didn't they go with it a bit more?
I immediately assumed it had been dropped, as we didn't have the personnel. In my (limited) experience, it seems that 3-4 defences can be disastrous, if you don't have the right players, and that 4-3 is the better option for struggling teams.
Possibly less dynamic. But a more solid option.
I'm not sure Oakland's D can be classed as "struggling" any more though. In fact, many pundits think it will be one of the more talented in the league next year.
Steve Young recently compared it, potentially, to the great Ravens defences of the last decade, and claimed that Oakland would keep most teams "under 14 points" this year.
Exciting times it seems.
And I think he's right. We have a heck of a lot of individual talent in defence. I'd state categorically, that we have one of the best secondaries in the league. Even with next to no pass rush, we are still a top 10 passing defence.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we could rush a passer, like say, Minnesota?
Everyone knows that the Raiders main problems have been in the front 7. We can't stop the run, and can't get to the Quarterback.
Which makes me wonder why guys like Kiper were actually surprised that we signed the best run stopping (and overall) line-backer in the draft?
Most fans I've seen had McClain as the highest player remaining on their mock Raiders draft boards, when it came to the Raiders pick. As did I.
Testament to how stupid the media tend to be with Oakland. The Patriots pick Mayo with 10, in 2008, and it's the smartest pick of all time. Oakland pick McClain with 8, and it's suddenly a "reach" for a line-backer.
To get to the meat of my article though, I've heard rumours for a while that Oakland want to get back to the 3-4. It failed miserably last time because they didn't have the players.
If you ask me, they have been slowly recruiting the personnel to possibly make it a success in the 2011 season.
They traded for Richard Seymour last year. Possibly the greatest 3-4 defensive end of his generation. Of course he can play almost anywhere along the line, but a 3-4 end is his position.
McClain will be an awesome middle-linebacker in a 4-3. He's that talented. But I think most would agree, that the guy would be even better as a ILB, in a 3-4.
Before the draft, most people were stating that he was your prototypical 3-4 linebacker.
Lamaar Houston. Again, the size and skills to play either the Defensive Tackle, or 3-4 end position, but most people would describe him as a 3-4 specialist.
Trading for Quentin Groves. Your classic 3-4 outside linebacker.
Developing Trevor Scott. Again another prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker, potentially.
Trading for Kameiron Wimbley. A guy who's played 3-4 outside linebacker for most of his career.
Ditching fan favourite Kirk Morrison. Possibly because he's too small and weak to play ILB or OLB in a 3-4?
Why haven't they made the move this year? Well, everyone knows a 3-4 team lives or dies by the quality of it's run stuffing nose-tackle.
This is a player Oakland do not have. Nothing close.
Could Oakland take a top Nose Tackle in next years draft, with their 2nd round pick, and make the switch?
I personally think it's a strong possibility.
But then again, if we find ourselves being one of the meanest defences in all football by week 10, then they'll probably stick with the winning formula!