The questions about whether the Raiders will run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense this upcoming season continue to be asked. And head coach Dennis Allen continues to deflect them. But there have been several moves made by the team this offseason that suggest he need not say anything at all.
"Those are really all the things we're still working through." Said Allen. "We'll see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful. I would expect that we'll be very multiple in that regard."
I have no doubt the Raiders defense will show multiple sets. Rarely in today's NFL do teams have one set and stick with it no matter what. Most teams have a base defensive set and change on the fly or in different situations to keep the opposing offense on its toes. But all evidence suggests the Raiders will be running a base 3-4 and therefore will be looking to bring in players to fit the scheme along with keeping their eyes on drafting a few.
First of all, Allen admits that there are already many pieces in place for the Raiders to make the 3-4 switch.
Defensive end Richard Seymour, outside linebackers Kamerion Wimbley, and Quentin Groves all have experience in the 3-4. You could add Trevor Scott as well who has played both linebacker and defensive end for the Raiders. In the draft, they have chosen players like Lamarr Houston who was a defensive tackle in college and then switched him to defensive end. They also chose Travis Goethel who is an ideal inside linebacker.
The most recent signing that holds some hint of a scheme switch went under the radar: the signing of nose tackle Travis Ivey to a Reserve/Futures contract. Yes, I said nose tackle. Signing a player who is a nose tackle by trade is one bit of evidence. But if you go to the Raiders' roster page, they even have him listed as a nose tackle. A 4-3 defense doesn't have nose tackles.
Many of the coaches also come from a 3-4 background. Not the least of whom is defensive coordinator Jason Tarver who was a linebackers coach for the 49ers while they ran the 3-4 and took over as the co-defensive coordinator at Stanford where he brought the 3-4 to the Cardinal with a great deal of success.
Defensive line coach Terrell Williams was known for ushering hybrid 3-4 players into the NFL. He has ushered three solid players into the NFL in Anthony Spencer, Cliff Avril, and Alex McGee. Spencer and McGee were both drafted into 3-4 defenses in the NFL.
Then, of course, there is the fact that GM Reggie McKenzie has been involved with the 3-4 defense his entire playing career as well as 18 year career in the Packers front office.
Linebackers coach Johnny Holland has primarily worked in the 4-3 throughout his career but he has some experience with the 3-4 as well as he was part of the Packers defensive coaching staff the first five seasons of his NFL coaching career.
The moral of this is with the Raiders at very least planning on running multiple sets, they will need to focus on players who can perform in both. They have the defensive linemen to play the 3-4 with the exception of a big nose tackle so that will be a priority. It also takes a specific type of linebackers to be able to rush the passer and drop into coverage with equal proficiency. You can bet that at the combine this weekend, they will have their eyes on those types of players.
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