Scheming Up Improvements for the Raider Defense

The Raiders Defense has been woeful for many years, particularly in the area of run defense. Over the past years the team has ranked 31, 29, 29, 27, and 15th in run defense respectively. The failure to drastically improve this area of the team has caused some to question whether the team should transition to a 3-4 defense. Jason Tarver and Dennis Allen have both adamantly stated that scheme is not as important as execution, and that their "mixed front" approach is the best way to proceed.

Is it though?


When Tarver and Allen use the term "multiple front" they are referring to the ability to switch the defensive fronts alignment. Tarver has a vast experiance with the 3-4 alignment due to his time in San Francisco and Stanford. While everyone understands the basic 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, Allen and Tarver do utilize several other fronts shown below.











While no team uses any one front exclusively, most teams do choose a base defense. Last year 13 NFL teams used the 3-4 as their base defense. The teams were:


3 out of the top 5, and 6 out of the top ten, run defenses run the 3-4 alignment. Furthermore, 7 out of 12 playoff teams ran the 3-4. While this may seem close to statistically insignificant, 3-4 defenses allowed more than 20 rushing yards less per game league-wide.


Rk Team G Pts/G TotPts Att Att/G Yds Avg Yds/G TD Lng 1st 1st% 20+ 40+ FUM
1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 24.6 394 377 23.6 1,320 3.5 82.5 13 64T 75 19.9 8 1 3
2 Pittsburgh Steelers 16 19.6 314 391 24.4 1,450 3.7 90.6 9 64T 78 19.9 6 1 6
3 Denver Broncos 16 18.1 289 404 25.2 1,458 3.6 91.1 5 36 73 18.1 5 0 6
4 San Francisco 49ers 16 17.1 273 407 25.4 1,507 3.7 94.2 7 35 72 17.7 9 0 5
5 Washington Redskins 16 24.2 388 363 22.7 1,532 4.2 95.8 11 53 89 24.5 9 2 7
6 San Diego Chargers 16 21.9 350 406 25.4 1,542 3.8 96.4 10 41 85 20.9 6 1 9
7 Houston Texans 16 20.7 331 390 24.4 1,560 4.0 97.5 5 29 94 24.1 13 0 10
8 Chicago Bears 16 17.3 277 388 24.2 1,627 4.2 101.7 6 80T 75 19.3 10 2 12
9 New England Patriots 16 20.7 331 415 25.9 1,630 3.9 101.9 10 31 100 24.1 5 0 19
10 Seattle Seahawks 16 15.3 245 368 23.0 1,649 4.5 103.1 8 74 80 21.7 10 1 8

A more recent struggle for the Raiders has been generating sacks, they ranked 31st in the NFL last year with 25. 3-4 teams average (39.5) a little more than 5 sacks more on average than 4-3 teams (34.4).


Tarver preaches execution above statistics and scheme, so the current roster must be analyzed to see where adjustments need to be made.

  • NT: is the linchpin behind all great 3-4 defenses. a 6 footish 320+ pounder is usually ideal to eat up blockers and generate leverage. The best NTs in the league are guys like Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork who hold blocks for the linebackers to penetrate. Currently the Raider DT's are taller leaner types more suited to the 4-3 alignment. The good news is that 3 (Kelly, Seymour, and Bryant) of the 4 DT's used last year will likely be let go, so the position is open for change.
  • ILB: Again the plus here is that the Raiders don't have any true ILB's on there roster, so it is as good a time as ever to switch to a 3-4. Some believe that the 3-4 masks the issues of ILB's by splitting their work in half. Phillip Wheeler could most likely man one of the spots, but another player would need to be acquired.
  • OLB: Here is the biggest issue for the Raiders. The team doesn't have any true pass rushers, much less one that fits the OLB mold. Having solid edge rushers would be crucial to a successful 3-4 transition. Fortunately, the draft this year features many standout pass rushers from the OLB spot, such as Jarvis Jones.
  • DE: DE's in the 3-4 are usually a little larger, 280 plus pounds. The job of the DE is to contain and hold the edge for the outside rush to get through. Houston, Shaunessy, Crawford, and Carter would all be capable at this position, and possibly better suited.

Another often overlooked aspect of the 3-4 is that many of the top schools in college football implement the scheme.

  • Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Georgia Bulldogs
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • Tennessee Volunteers
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • Stanford Cardinal

This means there is an abundance of talent coming out in the draft every year trained in this scheme.
While an adjustment to a 3-4 may be difficult at first due to personnel deficiencies, the statistics demonstrate how effective the switch could be. While execution will still be key, Allen and Tarver should be more than capable of teaching the new scheme to the players.

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