Raider’s Defense, Coming Together As a Team To Open 2010
The Raiders have had a great off season. The biggest difference between the Raiders this season and the last seven years is individualism. Over the last several seasons the Raiders have signed BIG name players to fix their offensive and defensive woes. This tactic has not worked well for Oakland. The simple problem is these past super stars have been interested in themselves. They were after a large contract with guaranteed money, their individual hype or reputations. In short they only care about themselves.
This off season brought in a different feel to the team. There was no off field drama, contract holdouts or legal disputes. Players worked on their position assignments, from blocking and pass rushing to coverage drills and working out on the jugs gun. It’s almost as if the player’s names have disappeared and all been replaced with RAIDERS.
Let’s look at how this has created a new Raiders Defense.
Players were Brought in Based on Character not Hype
On Defense the Raiders traded for Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, later they signed John Henderson from free agency. These players are looking for an opportunity to prove themselves winners. They are willing to do whatever it takes to win the battles on the field and with them, the game, division, conference and Super Bowl. Players like Asomugha and Seymour are mentoring the younger players like Houston, Scott, Shaughnessy, McClain, Heyward-Bey, McFadden and Ware. Everyone is trying to make the team better.
Players care About Results not Playing Time
Houston’s performance during training camp earned him a starting position at DE. This allowed the club to move Seymour inside to DT, a position he is more comfortable playing. With Seymour inside, Henderson has been relegated to backup duty. Scott was moved to WLB and supplanted Howard as the starter. This week Scott was moved back to starting at DE and placing Shaughnessy into relief duty. Howard still remains the backup at WLB with Groves getting the start. Chris Johnson, nursing an injury, has been replaced by Stanford Routt as the #2 CB and Mitchell remains a backup S while Huff starts.
Complaints about some of these developments have been heard throughout the Raider Nation, but it has been the fans. Not one of these players has complained about losing or not getting the starting job. Everyone is on a team first mentality, from helping receivers work on breaking loose of press coverage to assisting fellow defenders in run stuffing, pass rushing and coverage. These players are making themselves and each other better.
For these players the team comes first and they will do whatever is needed from them to win. If this means changing positions, giving the starter a breather, playing special teams, playing in select packages or breaking down game film they will do it. The glory is in the Silver and Black not the individual.
Coaches with a Game Plan
John Marshall has brought in the Elephant Defense, placed Mitchell in a wolverine package and brought back the blitz Robb Ryan all but eliminated in Oakland.
Mike Waufle and Greg Biekert are working together with John Marshall, moving players between the D-Line and LB positions, rushing and coverage assignments to facilitate game needs. Howard is not starting at WLB this week, but I suspect he will when we play a pass heavy offense. Scott may be seen as the starting WLB against a more balanced offense with Shaughnessy starting at DE. This diversity allows the Defense to adapt to the strengths of their opponents and eliminate predictability.
and the Intuition to Adjust to the Opponent from Week to Week
Last season we rotated Eugene and Huff at FS with some success. Perhaps rotating Mitchell and Huff is in the game plan this year. This is that high risk high reward type of thing Al Davis has always loved. Mitchell can punish a running back that breaks loose or a receiver that dares to cross the middle. His coverage skills are suspect, so expect catches in his area, but the receiver will pay for that yardage. Rotate Huff back in and the ball isn’t getting to the receiver over the middle. Huff will usually breakup the pass, and even get interceptions, but he’s not taking many opponents down with that paddy-cake shove he is so fond of. It depends on how the Raiders want to gamble from play to play.
With Branch at SS the coaches may feel like they don’t need two enforcers at the same time, but I for one am salivating for it.
This week we face the Tennessee Titans.
They bring a power ground game with the running attack of Chris Johnson and the scrambling ability of Vince Young. To attack Tennessee’s strength the coaches have adjusted the starting lineup. Groves is in at WLB; because, he is our best run coverage WLB. Scott replaces Shaughnessy at DE based on his better coverage skills. Both of these guys are monster pass rushers, but remember, the Elephant scheme drops the DE into coverage too. Howard will be in during passing downs and Mitchell will see his share of plays. Howard will be looking for the ball and Mitchell will be looking for his chance to light someone up, perhaps Young on a QB scramble.
The coaches see this as our best chance to defeat the Titans.
We Have a Defense with a Common Goal, Win the Game
With every man doing his part and backing up the player beside him, the Raiders can win the battles on the field. This leads to winning the game and the season will take care of itself.
The Raiders may not make the Super Bowl or even the play offs this year, but they are on the right track. This season the Raiders will get back their self respect, swagger and with it, the fear of the league.
The Autumn Wind is blowing, and this year, it brings the Silver and Black Attack.