Could a 3-4 defene be the key to getting the most out of Rolando McClain?
There has been a large amount of speculation recently that the Oakland Raiders are looking for a defensive coordinator who can implement a 3-4 defense in Oakland next season. A big part of the rumors surround the fact that many believe that the Raiders are waiting for the Packers to finish their playoff run so that Al Davis can meet with assistant coach Winston Moss, who is a 3-4 guy.
This, however, is not the first time that there have been rumors about the Raiders switching to a 3-4 defense. During the last off-season, these rumors began once the Raiders started collecting linebackers with the trades for Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves.
The problem with most of this talk is that it's only talk, and talk that is not coming from the Raiders organization. Additionally, most of the talk is fueled by the fact that the Raiders still have major issues stopping the run.
Only time will tell if Al Davis decides to move away from his my best man beats your best man defensive philosophy and implement the 3-4 defense. But until time does tell us the answer, there is no harm in taking a look at whether it really is a good idea.
First, the good part. The Raiders really have struggled in run defense and with the improvements the offense made last season, a step up by the defense this season could easily result in a playoff birth. Additionally, some of the Raiders defensive front seven are good fits for the 3-4 defensive scheme.
Richard Seymour was one of the most dominant 3-4 DEs in the league when he was with the New England Patriots, and also played a little bit of nose tackle on occasion. Soon to be second year player Rolando McClain was a stud in college as a 3-4 middle linebacker and many believe that his size makes him a much better fit for that defense. People also believe that Lamaar Houston would be able to thrive in a 3-4 defense as a DE. Finally, Kamerion Wimbley played outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in Cleveland with the Browns.
Now for the bad. Current defensive line coach Mike Waufle is a 4-3 guy through and through. Many, including Al Davis, believe the hiring of Waufle was the reason for the Raiders much improved defensive line play this season and a move to a 4-3 defense would likely mean the end of Waufle's time in Oakland.
Additionally, two Raiders defensive lineman who had break out years this past season would be hurt by the change in defensive philosophy. With his loss of nearly 35 pounds last season, Tommy Kelly is not an ideal fit for the nose tackle position. Sure, he could put the weight back on, but the quality of his play at the heavier weight was nothing to get excited about.
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy would also be hurt by the move. Shaughnessy, who is thought of very highly in Raiderland, is not a good fit to play 3-4 DE. The Raiders could consider standing him up to play OLB, but they would already be forced to do that with Trevor Scott and would be left with an abundance of OLBs and too few DEs.
Should the Raiders move to a 3-4 defense?
In addition, it should be noted that Kamerion Wimbley did not exactly excel in the 3-4 defense in Cleveland with his best year in the NFL coming this past season with the Raiders in a 4-3 scheme. And, the Raiders are missing two key elements vital to a 3-4, a solid nose tackle and a second inside linebacker to play alongside McClain.
With more than half of the Raiders defensive front seven being able to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme, the Raiders could definitely make the jump this off season with a few smart moves.
A 3-4 defense would certainly help with the run defense, but the question remains, would it be worth the risk? Especially if it meant trading breakout players like Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy?
It's just my opinion, but I'd like to see the Raiders defensive front seven another year to see how they can improve. Youngsters like Lamaar Houston, Rolando McClain, Matt Shaughnessy and Desmond Bryant have all been improving and looking like they could be impact players for years to come in the NFL. I'd rather see them given a few more years to develop before the Raiders start changing schemes on them.