Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
When you look at the 2012 season for the Raiders its hard to miss the glaring lack of an identity for the team. Will the coaches be able to fix that for 2013?
The coaching staff last year showed a complete inability to create an identity for their team. Now they have added Greg Olson as offensive coordinator who has had the same complaint brought about for his previous offenses. Will they be able to figure out where that went wrong before next year?
When the Raiders seemed on the verge of success they were a running team. Problem with that is the main runner is Darren McFadden who has yet to finish a season unscathed by injuries. This team can not trust McFadden to stay healthy enough to plan the team's identity around him as a full out running team.
If this team isn't able to plan on being a running team based around DMC the next idea would be to be a passing team. The problem with that is that Carson Palmer throws too many interceptions when he is relied on too heavily. The idea of a short range West Coast style passing attack takes a quarterback who is more efficient than Palmer has shown capable of.
Carson's contract status leaves him as a virtual certainty to remain with the team due to the prohibitive costs of releasing or trading him. He also is a very talented quarterback who the coaching staff believes they can win with and an excellent tutor for Terrelle Pryor to learn from until he is fully ready for action. Pryor might not be as far away as many thought but he still has room to grow.
If the Raiders are not able to center their identity around pounding the run game nor a heavy barrage of short passing routes then the answer is a balanced attack with a penchent for playaction and deep passing routes. A power team that is a threat to run or pass from the same line-ups for easy audibles between the two and more freedom for Palmer to call those audibles.
With Greg Olson coming in as OC the offense is going to convert back to a power blocking scheme. With a power blocking scheme comes the stronger effect of playaction. For a truly effective playaction to work you need to hand the ball off enough times to keep the defense honest and that's why the playcalling needs to be balanced instead of pass heavy. They also need to throw the ball out of regular plays often enough to make the defenses certain when they see the run and when they see the pass.
In a power blocking scheme the difference between a traditional drop back pass and a run play is easier to diagnose. With playaction you use that quick diagnosing against the defense into making them commit to what they think is a run, thus opening up more plays down field.. It also would create opportunities for screen passes to the Raiders speedy playmakers. This is old school Raiders football and the identity that was lacking last year
The idea of a multi-faceted defense never fully materialized last season either. That was suppose to be the defense's identity but they were never fully able to implement it. Injuries to the secondary and the lack of an appropriate on-field signal caller for the defense made the idea of having a complicated multi-scheme defense not an option. That can change this year depending on the pieces that Reggie McKenzie adds to the team in free agency and throughout the draft.
I believe in the multi-scheme defense still but I do not think it should be the basis of their identity. The basis of the Raiders defensive identity should match their offense and that is with power and balance. Power by hitting hard and controlling the trenches. Balance by blitzing and dropping back evenly to keep the offense guessing.
To do power they must concentrate on fundamentals in tackling and adding a powerful force to the middle of the defensive line. They must use their strength to their advantage and force the plays to go in the direction they decide on. Star Loutelie earns another point towards the best player to draft as an undeniable force up the middle.
For balance the coaching staff needs to find a way to mix blitzing and dropping back in coverage evenly but still be able to get pressure from the front four when they are not blitzing. To be able to count on the defensive line to get into the backfield consistently they need to also add a situational pass rusher, although maybe Andre Carter could still fill that role. Bjoern Werner would be an excellent fit for consistently getting into the backfield from the defensive line if the Raiders felt they could get a NT outside of their top 10 pick either later on in the draft or via FA.
Hue Jackson liked to use the term "bully' but I prefer the idea of "power" instead. Bully implies a meanness that creates an environment that lacks discipline. I want to see a controlled powerful approach where the Raiders force their will upon people intelligently and without stupid penalties caused by being over aggressive. That applies to both offense and defense.
Looking at the teams that made the playoffs this year you can tell each one knows exactly who they want to be. Each and every one of the 12 playoffs teams was clear on who they were and what they now want to build on. The Raiders need to find their own identity if they plan on being one of those playoffs teams in the near future.