The Raider Way: Vertical Offense, Man-To-Man Defense

RaidersBlog.tkContributor IMay 21, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - JANUARY 23:  Newly hired head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Lane Kiffin (L), smiles as Raiders owner Al Davis reacts to a question during a press conference on January 23, 2007 in Alameda, California. Kiffin, a 31 year-old offensive coordinator from the University of Southern California, was named as the new head coach to replace Art Shell who was fired after going 2-14 for the season.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

We all know Al Davis loves speed. There happens to be a few other things Davis loves. The deep ball and man-to-man defense.

The Raiders play man coverage and they always have. Whether Davis loves man coverage or hates zone coverage is unknown. There are, however, a couple possible reasons for Davis' long-held opinion.

Davis believes he has better athletes. The better athletes should win man-to-man battles most of the time. The other possible reason is based on principle. Man coverage is the way it used to be done and is supposed to be done, so it will be done that way.

There are many fans that believe the second to be true. Davis is stuck in his ways and just refuses to change. The first reason seems to make more sense if you follow Davis. He just always thinks his players are better. While this is an appropriate view for a fan, it can be devastating for an owner or coach.

Tom Cable has said on more than one occasion he believes the Raiders have enough talent to win consistently. It appears Tom Cable is in agreement with Davis. Unlike ex-coach Lane Kiffin who spoke several times about the Raiders need to add talent. 

The talent on defense remains virtually unchanged from last season. New Raiders defensive coordinator, John Marshall, inherits a Raiders defense ranked 31st against the rush and 10th against the pass. He has the biggest challenge of any Raiders coach. He must try to do it the Davis way and be effective.

Marshall also must pick his spots carefully. Defying the Raider way and winning is one thing, doing it and losing is another. Marshall does have a few things going for him, namely Nnamdi Asomugha and extensive coaching experience.

Like Marhsall, the offensive staff doesn't lack experience. Passing game coordinator Ted Tollner will have an important role installing the Raiders vertical passing attack and quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett has the challenge of molding JaMarcus Russell into a solid NFL quarterback.

Russell's development should be aided by first-round pick Darius Heyward-Bey who has been billed as a receiver that can run under a deep Russell fade. If there was any doubt about the offensive intentions, Cable has removed them. He just can't seem to keep his mouth shut about the vertical plays the Raiders have been installing this offseason.

Perhaps he can't help it. He needs excuses for poor offseason quarterback performances.

Undoubtedly, the Raiders' plan is to go deep with regularity, but don't dismiss this as Davis fodder. Tight end Zach Miller was the most reliable receiving target last season and the middle of the field was clogged full of defensive backs.

Keeping the safeties honest should break Miller free on routes across the middle. If the opposing safeties cheat, the Raiders deep passes could also be quite effective. It all now hinges on JaMarcus Russell and the revamped offensive line.

Russell must read and react quickly to the safeties and the offensive line must give Russell enough time to uncork throws 20, 30 and 50 yards down field without the help of a tight end.

If Russell or the offensive line struggle, so will the Raiders this season.