Oakland Raiders safety Tyvon Branch at training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
The Raiders are rolling out new schemes on both sides of the ball this year with the new coaching staff in place. And while the offensive scheme is well-known-West Coast offense with zone blocking-the defense has been somewhat of a mystery.
The thinking up to this point is the Raiders will play a mixture of the 4-3 and 3-4 with more of a zone scheme in the secondary. The term defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen have used to describe it is "multiple". That word doesn't really explain exactly what they intend to do and is ambiguous by design.
But whatever the specific defensive style they deploy, or rather combination of styles, the Raiders defensive backs are liking what they see.
"This new defense we've got gives us more opportunities to make plays," Says strong safety Tyvon Branch. "We're not as predictable as we have been in years before... Defense as a whole, the concepts, we got some good stuff"
You must assume what he means when he says the Raiders won't be as predictable is they won't be such a strict man defense as they had for nearly their entire existence. Opposing teams always knew what to expect. That statement suggests at very least a steady dose of zone defense.
Also suggesting a more zone style are the type of corners the team brought in. Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are known to be solid zone corners. So expectedly, they are very excited at what Tarver and Allen have cooked up for them. He and Branch had similar things to say about the defense.
"I love the scheme. I love the scheme," said Bartell. "It's a multiple-look scheme, it puts a lot of different people in positions to make plays. Some schemes are predicated upon D-line, some are on linebackers, some are on secondary play, but it puts everybody, on every level of the defense, it gives you the opportunity to make plays. It gives guys the chance to show their versatility. So, from that standpoint, I'm excited. Coach Tarver, he's a young, energetic coordinator, we've got some good DB coaches, a young staff, so it's just a lot of excitement right now. From that standpoint, we're just ready to get everybody on the same page and see what happens."
Getting everyone on the same page is of utmost importance. But to do that, they need everyone to be on the right track. That track in Oakland is a new one and it starts with discipline. Shawntae Spencer understands and respects coach Allen's emphasis on discipline.
"I tell you what, man, it's ‘do it or come stand next to me. Or go home', you know what I mean? And that's just what it is. It's very in your face as far as Coach Allen, very, very instrumental on the defense, especially with the secondary, he's a secondary coach, he knows what it looks like, what it's supposed to look like and that's what he's demanding from us... You hear different things, you know, when I came in, about previous staffs and things like that and how different this one is. It's no nonsense. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done. They want everyone to embrace the team concept and playing together and playing within each scheme."
Thus far most of the defensive players have bought into the team's new direction along with the new scheme. One possible exception may be Rolando McClain although his transgressions happened prior to the new regime's arrival.
As for McClain or anyone else who isn't onboard, as Spencer pointed out, "do it... or go home".
From the sounds of it, there is no reason why anyone on this team should have trepidation about conforming to the new scheme. Whatever it may be at any given play during the course of a game.