Originally published on Silver & Black Report on May 10, 2014
The Oakland Raiders went through yet another large rebuild in the offseason, with the defense being greatly rebuilt again.
In free agency, the Raiders added veterans Antonio Smith, Lamarr Woodley, and Justin Tuck up front.
In addition, the Raiders just drafted big-bodied nose tackle Justin Ellis in the fourth round of the draft after selecting the extremely versatile linebacker Khalil Mack fifth-overall.
With all of these additions, the Raiders now have versatility and an ability to run a variety of defenses just as Jason Tarver and Dennis Allen desire in their “multiple” scheme.
The Raiders have ran a base 4-3 while under Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver and fans shouldn’t expect that to change. But that doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t try to incorporate different looks, like a 3-4, increasingly with a more versatile roster.
Changing the looks will only help confuse the opposing offense as it will make it more difficult to see where the rush is coming from and whose defending who. A change in defensive look doesn’t always mean the players’ duties will change, but will keep the opposing offense on their toes.
Thing is you can’t simply “change your look” with players that won’t be efficient in their “new” position – the opposing NFL offenses are too good and will exploit their weakness. This is why having versatile players is key.
The Raiders seemingly have enough depth in the linebacking corps to run the 3-4 scheme on plays should they want to. The Raiders could put Pat Sims or rookie Ellis on the field as a run-stuffing nose tackle, sandwiched by Smith and Tuck (though he may be a little small) as the two defensive ends.
This would also move Woodley back to his position in Pittsburgh as a 3-4 outside linebacker with Mack on the other side and middle linebacker Nick Roach and Sio Moore playing as the inside linebackers. And the Raiders still have Kevin Burnett, Kaluka Maiava and Miles Burris for depth at linebacker.
If the Raiders want to play in the same 4-3 that they’ve been playing in, they need to figure out what the plan for Mack is. Will Mack take Moore’s place as the SAM linebacker and Moore moved to WILL? Or will Mack go over to the WILL position? My first guess is that it will be Moore who is moved over to the weakside as Mack’s strengths make him a force to be reckoned with on the strongside.
Either way, the Raiders have a corps of linebackers that can be moved around, with Mack and Moore also having experience and the ability to put their hands in the dirt and rush from the line on passing downs.
The same versatility can be seen on the Raiders defensive line, with Antonio Smith having the ability to play inside or out, and Tuck having experience being be kicked inside on passing downs to apply more pass rush.
Another thing of note is the Raiders potential NASCAR package, which historically features four defensive ends on the line and is designed to apply pressure on the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
As it stands now, the Raiders NASCAR package would likely be Woodley, Tuck, Smith and Mack on the defensive line with Roach and Moore as the linebackers. That’s a lot of strength and speed down there to attack the quarterback.
Don’t expect the Raiders to change their base defense from their current 4-3, but we may just happen to see more 3-4 play from the Raiders now that their personnel makes it more capable. The Raiders have done a good job acquiring defensive pieces that can be placed at a variety of positions, making it easier to achieve the “multiple” scheme they desire.