In the past few posts, I've looked at the Raiders defense using some statistical analysis. Now, it seems an interesting prospect to look at the 2010 defense and compare it to the 2011 Raiders defense. While there were some notable changes in personnel (Nnamdi, Thomas Howard) and several key injuries (Chris Johnson, Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour, Rolando McClain), the core of the defense remained. Comparing the defensive signatures of the Marshall year vs the Bresnahan year may give us some insight into what effect Coach Bresnahan had compared to Coach Marshall. And then we might be able to gain some insight into what we might expect that Coaches Allen and Tarver can get out of this defensive squad.
The full blog post is here : http://www.raiders1.ninjagoro.com/?p=1092
Raiders of 2011 surrendered over 440 pts. The 2010 Raiders defense projects to have surrendered 301 pts, given the 2011 drive distribution. 301 pts compared to 440. that's a difference of 139 pts, about 32%. You could argue that the 2010 defense could have performed at about 1/3 again as well as the 2011. That 301 pts, btw, is also below the 343 pt NFL Average.
The main point of this exercise was to point out what a dramatic difference there was in 2011 compared to 2010. While there were some personnel changes, it appears that the most critical change was the defensive coordination and the sudden passive nature of the defense that allowed a consistent, banal performance by the team.
Many skeptics will look simply at the Total Defensive Rating and state unequivocally that "The Raiders Defense sucks" and then conclude that the 2012 Raiders defense will also be terrible; the more insightful (and hopeful!) fans can look at the Raiders team and see that the Raiders 2011 defense had the personnel to perform substantially better than it did; furthermore, the 2012 Raiders defense has the personnel and talent--even with the question marks--to perform near the NFL Average. That, in itself, would be a shock to many. But what is intriguing is that the scheme employed really does have a chance to affect change in a fundamental way with respect to the Raiders defensive production.
Typically, a "Bend-but-don't-break" defense forces an offense to work for its yards. As a result, longer drives tend to be more difficult and the PPD graph drops distinctly as the graph trends to the left, similar in fashion to the left half of the NFL average or the left half of the 2010 Defense. The better the designa dn execution of the defenses, the stronger the left side of the graph tends to be.
Going forward into 2012 and beyond, just an AVERAGE defensive approach should result in an overall defensive performance more in line with the 2010 projections. But Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver are not after "average." Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Aaron Curry, Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, and the rest are not hungry for "average." The early reports are positive and so Raider fans should be hopeful. The Raiders do have talent. The Raiders do have hope. The 2012 defense does really have a chance to surprise many people and really explode onto the scene.
I won't expect an overnight success (though it very well might happen that way), but I will certainly look for a noticeable, substantial improvement. Look at the 2011 Arizona Cardinals' defense as an example of how a new defensive scheme can really affect a team. That defense was a work-in-progress early in the year under Ray Horton, but by the end of the year, they really grokked their assignments and were playing much faster.
This year, with a full off-season--that should shorten the learning curve and lessen the likelihood of injuries--we might see results in the Raiders' defense much sooner. They may have some problems early in the season (I would expect a couple of "bad" defensive games early on), but as they really assimilate the new scheme and grow together, watch out. Week 8. Look for our defense to show us what they are about by Week 8.
Just an average defense would have resulted in a playoff berth for the Raiders in 2011. I won't be so optimistic at predicting playoffs for the Raiders in 2012, especially with the Chiefs returning to health, the Broncos potentially improved, and the Chargers continuing to be dangerous (though underperforming), but I do feel very good about predicting that the Raiders will be in the running well into the last few weeks of the season. That would be a fantastic start to the Raiders' New Epoch, Year One Post Al Davis.