Recent history has proven a defensive coordinator switch has made softies into intimidating forces overnight. We can go back to the Packers post Favre. Year one they weren't all on Aaron Rodgers' jock as the team suffered a 6-10 campaign and ended up hiring Dom Capers. The 2009-2010 season, they led the league in rush defense for the first time in their history and clinched a playoff berth with a 11-5 record. Of course, poor defenses do rear their ugly heads on occasion with the team losing to the Arizona Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs 51-45. The following year they finished 10-6 after winning their final two games, clinched a wild-card spot, and eventually beat the hated Steelers in the Super Bowl and haven't lost since. Just look at the season we are in now. A Houston Texans squad may have had one of the worst defenses arguably ever assembled last year. In fact, in spite of boasting Matt Schaub's 4,000+ yards, arguably the best receiver in football, and Arian Foster leading the league in rushing their defense was so putrid they finished 6-10 after winning their final regular season game to get there on Jan. 2, 2011. On Jan. 5, 2011 enter Wade Phillips to install his 3-4 and currently this team ranks first in total defense and in the top five in both defensive yardage categories. Also they have clinched their first playoff berth and division title standing at 10-3 with seven straight wins and excuses are nowhere to be found. Matt Schaub and Mario Williams are lost for the season. Arian Foster didn't give them the opportunity to get off to a hot start missing nearly the entire first three games of the season and Andre Johnson has missed several games with injury. Mike Nolan fits the mold as a quiet, unassuming, gentleman type that never got it as a head coach but has always been a consistent assistant particularly in educating men on the 3-4 defense. We got to see that on display firsthand and our receivers were exposed.
We've all seen what this Raiders team is capable of when we are at full strength and have obviously seen what this team is capable of unfortunately when its making excuses for not being so. While realistically we may be out of the playoff chase with Denver, Pittsburgh, and the Jets all ahead of us I like to think of this as the start of the new and improved Oakland Raiders. Sadly my team may be the worst team in football the past two weeks and no first or second round picks to show for it coming up I still think we are a couple of moves away from a definite playoff berth in 2012-2013. All it takes is a former head coach to be brought in as defensive coordinator to install a 3-4 alignment. That guy resides in Florida and its not the first name that is on Raider fans' minds either. Sorry Jack. Mike Nolan may be the key to bringing a division championship to the Oakland Raiders.
I'm a big proponent of fantasy football speaking for the defensive side of the ball and Nolan's Dolphins currently allow the 30th most fantasy points to RBs this season. That means running backs don't get a lot of yards, don't score in short yardage, and when they catch the ball don't get very far afterwards. For all that said I would take our current starting secondary including Lito Shepard over either of Houston or Miami's backfields in a heartbeat. Our front seven, while it needs work does have something to work with. We don't have the luxury of drafting a JJ. Watt, Connor Barwin like the Texans or a BJ. Raji or Clay Matthews like GB next year but if we find the right fits in free agency it can be done. This team has employed an Elephant look in the past and with Wimbley in the Williams\ Matthews role he can garner double-digit sacks. Dick Seymour for years was considered the prototype at 3-4 end with his ability to not only fill gaps but also shoot gaps and rush the passer. Lamar Houston on the other end may be the heir-apparent. McClain played ILB for the national champion Crimson Tide defense and may need this to resurrect a very disappointing career. The other OLB position may go to Aaron Curry by default or possibly Trevor Scott assuming he doesn't tear a knee ligament pumping the breaks on his SUV on the way to the stadium. He provides cheap, but good depth. This leaves two positions open for players not on this team and they may be the most imperative. The nose tackle can be had likely where we end up drafting in the fifth or we can get one in free agency. Nolan's own Paul Soliai already knows the defense and would be an improvement over Tommy Kelly who would not be a good fit. He can stay if he agrees to a pay cut and be used on passing downs only on the interior. Another good option could be Abreyu Franklin who was a stud for Nolan while in San Francisco and won't garner too much attention after being under-utlized in New Orleans' base 4-3 D. Former Broncos and Bills ILB Andre Davis are going to be available, as is the underrated Cardinals' Clark Haggans and would be immediate starters on this defense.
Finally there are some players who we have to sacrifice to make this happen such as Mike Mitchell who while a fan favorite is not really a good fit, very productive, and is a personal foul waiting to happen. There are about three wide receivers on this roster that I can care less whether they stay or go; besides we are a run-first offense anyway and all of these guys are broken. I can't wait around forever. That brings me to DMAC, one of my favorite Raiders when he's healthy. Mike Bush resigning long-term should be priority number one and unless McFadden agrees to a pay cut I don't think this organization can continue to keep him on the books while he holds us all hostage with his bad feet. Taiwan Jones may be a dynamic alternative waiting to explode on the scene. There you have it. Perhaps this is just me thinking out-loud or maybe this organization already has the wheels in motion looking for the pieces to implement a Raider defense Ted Hendricks and Lyle Alzado would be proud of.