First things first, hats off to Brenston Buckner. He was fan favorite because of the juice he brought to the Raiders while helping hold some of the young defensive linemen accountable. I wish the Raiders found a way to keep him on the staff. Good coaches aren’t so easy to come by. That being said, the Raiders actually upgraded at this coaching spot. Rod Marinelli has been brought in to groom the Raiders recent investments in their defensive line. Marinelli is widely considered to be one of, if not the best defensive line coaches in all of football. Here’s a look at how he can impact the Raider pass rush in 2020:
Watch DeMarcus Lawrence at the left end position. He executes a euro-step into a cross-chop, beating the Eagles right tackle for a strip-sack. Imagine Maxx Crosby in this position and how this attention to detail will help all of the Raiders to maximize their pass rushing ability.
Twists and stunts
Marinelli seems to rely on twists more often than straight rushes from an even front. Usually this is a simply T-E stunt on one side of the formatio, but there are plenty of examples of Marinelli getting more exotic. The Raiders got into the pass rushing formation shown above quite a bit down the stretch in 2019, so there will be some familiarity there for all involved. The problem, however, was that the Raiders stunts on 3rd and long lacked creativity. With Marinelli in the fold, count on the Raiders getting more production from their even front stunts.
Paul Guenther is still the defensive coordinator, but he will lean on Marinelli to help with the design of what are called “simulated pressures.” This is Guenther’s favored way to rush the passer, and I have to admit, Marinelli is far more advanced that Guenther in this area of defense.
Marinelli’s fronts used a surprising amount of three-man lines. Usually this alignment means a fourth rusher will come. However, there were a significant amount of 3rd and longs from 2017-19 where only three defenders rushed the passer. The example above shows LB Jaylon Smith bluffing the blitz, forcing the center to stay in while allowing the two rushers on the left side to get 1-on-1 pass rushing reps. A three-man rush getting pressure is the dream for defensive coordinators across the country. Marinelli schemed this up perfectly.
The clip above shows another three-man line with three linebackers close to the line of scrimmage. The offensive line is counting on at least one of these defenders to insert as an extra rusher. However, they all drop into coverage, and the fourth rusher actually comes off the edge in the form of a corner blitz. This is truly a simulated pressure because there are still only four rushers, meaning the back seven has more flexibility in the type of coverage they can play.
The most impact Marinelli will have on the defense is improving the pass rushing techniques of the young defensive linemen. We will see a big step forward from a few players in this group under Marinelli’s tutelage. Perhaps one of the young, less-heralded guys like Arden Key, P.J. Hall, or Maurice Hurst will pop this season as a result.
The knowledge that Marinelli brings in terms of stunts and pressures will also be a boon to this defense. Paul Guenther will be able to lean on Marinelli’s expertise in this area and focus more on coverage and helping the secondary step up their play.