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Oakland Raiders: Changes Dennis Allen Will Make

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystFebruary 1, 2012

ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 30:  New Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis  Allen speaks to reporters during a press conference on January 30, 2012 in Alameda, California. Dennis Allen was introduced as the new coach of the Oakland Raiders, replacing Hue Jackson who was fired after one season.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

General manager Reggie McKenzie hired Dennis Allen to be the first head coach of the Oakland Raiders in the post-Al Davis era.

McKenzie made it clear during Allen's introductory press conference that the Raiders organization is not just a team, but will function like a team. The coaches and front office will share ideas and information and provide input as appropriate. 

McKenzie's primary responsibility will be shaping the roster with input provided by Allen. Allen's responsibility will be taking what McKenzie gives him and winning football games. If the Raiders are to win a Super Bowl under the leadership of these two men, they will both need to be successful. 

McKenzie reportedly handed Allen a four-year contract which is a clear departure from the contracts Al Davis would give to his head coaches. Two-year contracts with two-year team options made previous head coaches perpetually interim, and the turnover is partly to blame for the Raiders lack of success during the last decade.

Dennis Allen may be young, but he's the powerful head coach Raider fans have coveted since Jon Gruden walked the halls of the Raiders' Alameda headquarters. For the first time in nearly 50 years, there will be significant changes in the football department, and a lot of them will be at the prompting of the Raiders' 39-year-old head coach.

Culture

McKenzie has committed to Allen and given him all the power he needs to address the Raiders' biggest problem: penalties.

The penalty issue in Oakland is well-known and dates back to the days just after the AFL-NFL merger. Al Davis built a team with a "criminal element" and feuded with then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. The reputation created then is still impacting the way the Raiders are officiated today.

Allen will address the mental penalties that plague the Raiders such as off sides and encroachment. The players will be accountable to Allen, and Allen will have real power to influence their playing time and status with the team. If Allen can solve the issue of mental penalties, that should go a long way towards solving the long-standing reputation issue. 

There will no longer be coaches acting as informants for the owner or even coaches hired by anyone but the coach. Allen will control the hiring of his own staff, and the power structure will clearly run through him.

It may not sound like a lot, but even small changes like these can have a positive impact on a team desperately trying to return to their winning past. 

Defense

Allen is the first head coach of the Raiders with a defensive background since John Madden, and big changes may be coming on the defensive side of the ball. The Raiders defense ranked 29th in total defense in 2011, and no one would blame Allen if he wanted to make wholesale changes. 

Allen wasn't ready to disclose if the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense in 2012. Allen said his defense will bring multiple looks and wouldn't commit to any one scheme. Obviously, Allen isn't being entirely forthcoming because he needs more time to evaluate what he has and what can be obtained before the start of next season.

Multiple look fronts will correspond with blitzing. Yes, blitzing. That's the b-word many have been waiting to hear for years. There were times the Raiders would go several games without a single blitz.

Those days are over.

The defensive coordinator will need to teach the players the blitz choreography to Allen's satisfaction. In the past, even when the Raiders did blitz it was ill-disguised or the player gave it away to the quarterback too early. That will not be the case under the watchful eye of Dennis Allen.

Offense

Without much experience on the offensive side of the ball, Allen will hire experienced offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Allen brings in an offensive mind to run the offense but don't expect Allen to let Knapp have total control over the direction of the offense.

As a defensive-minded coach, Allen will recognize what types of offenses are difficult to scheme against and steer the Raiders offense in those directions. Allen said he will not call any plays, and that will leave him free to learn more about the offense.

By bringing in Knapp, the Raiders are likely switching the blocking scheme of the offensive lineman back to the zone-blocking system developed by Alex Gibbs and taught to Greg Knapp during his time in Atlanta from 2004 to 2006. The Raiders spent the last two seasons transitioning away from zone blocking.

The Raiders could also shift towards the West Coast Offense and away from the Air Coryell inspired offense of 2011 offensive coordinator Al Saunders.

Personnel

It's tough to know what Allen and McKenzie will do with the player personnel. Allen expressed that he thought the Raiders have the right players to compete now, but that doesn't mean there will not be changes.

T.J. Houshmandzedah will not return, and any backup and special teams player is at definite risk of losing their roster spot as well as a few starters.

Players like Jerome Boyd, Mike Mitchell, Darryl Blackstock, Jarvis Moss and Trevor Scott will be lucky to return. Starters who could be on the hot seat include Rolando McClain and Michael Huff.

It's a new era of Raiders football, changes must be made and Allen will have a big hand in the changes to come. 

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