Remember the days that Raider defenses were intimidating and inflicted pain on opposing offenses? You could tell in their body language that last thing an offense wanted on a given Sunday was to be on the field with the Raider's defense.
With a few personnel moves this offseason, the Raiders now have the parts necessary to get that defense back on track after being ranked among the leagues worst units the last few years. Defensive coordinator John Marshall appears to have earned the trust of Al Davis and should be able to use his blitzes and multiple fronts.
Marshall is a 4-3 hybrid coordinator with use of the elephant. (stand up end) Davis does not like to blitz and do too much out of the norm but Marshall got through to Davis in week six against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Marshall dialed up blitz after blitz and got outstanding results. Then Eagles quarterback Dovavan McNabb was sacked six times as the potent Eagle offense was held to 283 yards and a 2-16 third down conversion rate. Add two turnovers to the mix and you have a 13-9 Raider win.
We all know about the philosophy of Davis, but at the end of the day it's "Just win baby". Any coach that wishes to show him there is a better way to do something better be successful when doing it. Davis is now behind his man.
Evidence of this is in offseason moves. Davis actually went out and got the personnel to fit the scheme that John Marshall wants to run. Kameron Wimbly and Quenton Groves are just the hybrid defensive end outside linebackers that fit.
Kameron Wimbly is a 2006 first round pick that had 11 sacks in his first year. His pass rush numbers have since dipped but he has become a much better all around linebacker. He has made drastic improvements in both pass coverage and setting the perimeter in the run game.
Last year, Wimbley was labled as a man with "warning track power". This stems from how he has consistently almost sacked the quarterback but not quite getting it done. "Almost doesn't count" is probably the logic used for giving Wimbley a one way ticket to Oakland.
While being thrown out like trash in Cleveland, Wimbley will be treasure in Oakland. His almosts in Cleveland will count in Oakland. Almost sacks will turn into interceptions as Oakland has a superior secondary.
Oakland's coverage down the field will turn Wimbleys almost sacks into sacks. Playing with better pass rushers like Richard Seymour and company will also put a few sacks right in his lap. Wimbley was the only sack threat the Browns had in his time there.
Having been a defensive end in college, Wimbley is a perfect scheme fit to go along with fellow acquisition Groves and home grown defensive end to outside linebacker convert Trevor Scott. There will be much confusion on the opposing offensive line when two of these men are standing up on the same side on third and long.
Opposing offensive lineman will need even more extra study time as Tommy Kelly and Seymour can line up anywhere along the line of scrimmage. Enter second round draft pick Lamarr Houston, who is being moved to defensive end after playing tackle last year at Texas.
First round middle linebacker Rolando McClain and mammoth "secret weapon" defensive tackle Kellen Heard will help stop the the run. This should create more third and longs than they have had in previous years.
The offense may actually get some leads, which will also create more passing downs. With the new scheme, parts, and better offensive play form the Raiders, look for the silver and black attack to be back on defense in 2010.