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Selling Out to Stop the Run

The Raiders have not had any trouble compiling talent the last few years. The problem was putting it all together to form a winning team. It's not a secret they like speed and “athletes”, then again who doesn't? Speed gives the Raiders an edge in a lot of ways, but it's the positions where speed doesn't matter as much that has been handicapping them.

In the past the Raiders have drafted a lot of “athletes”. Some of them worked out and some didn't, but the fact remained that they were trying to acquire great skill position players to disguise what they were lacking in the trenches. To elaborate, the Raiders seemed to be thinking that if they had Nnamdi Asomugha, Charles Woodson, Stanford Routt, Michael Huff, the secondary they could play man to man and stack the box against the run. If they could consistently have 7-8 guys in the box it wouldn't matter the talent of the players because they would be bringing too many guys to block right? So the Raiders filled their roster with “athletes” like Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard, Derrick Burgess, Trevor Scott, etc...up front that fit their athletic scheme. The result was ugly to watch. The Raiders were gashed on the ground week in and week out. The defense could not get off the field and opposing offenses controlled the ball making it very difficult to win games.

That is until the Raiders had a change of heart, and I believe it started with the trade for Richard Seymour. Seymour was a guy who could win at the line of scrimmage consistently. He helped revive the career on Tommy Kelly by simply just relieving him of double teams. Obviously the problem was too big for one guy to fix though. They had to get away from pure speed rushers at defensive end and they have been doing just that. They have added guys like Matt Shaughnessy and LaMarr Houston in recent years, both of which can get after the quarterback, but still hold their ground in the run game as well. The next step was getting a true run stuffer. A guy who doesn't give ground and is a force in the middle. The Raiders went out and signed free agent John Henderson who fits that description like a glove. He has done exactly what he was brought here to do and that is help sure up the run defense. These strategic moves were a giant leap forward in fixing the front 7. However, getting the personnel in place is only one part of the battle. Coaching them to be effective is another battle in itself Enter Mike Waufle, one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL today. He has made a big impact in Oakland since returning in 2010.

You can't stop with the defensive line though. Stopping the run takes a collective effort from the front 7. Al Davis and the coaching staff were aware of that. So prior to the 2010 draft the Raiders traded for former first round picks Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves. Both had struggled since being drafted by their current teams. The Raiders were hoping though, that a combination of a position change and a change in scenery would help jump start their careers. Normally when former defensive ends play linebacker, it is in a 3-4 defensive system. In this case though, they were thought to be athletic enough to occasionally cover the flats while still having the size to be effective in run support. The defense at this point was clearly making a transition from fast and agile to powerful and stout. It was clear that Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard were being phased out. That fate was sealed when Rolando McClain was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft to man the middle. Now a completely revamped line backing core could help usher in a new era in Oakland. The era of the “Bully”.

There is still work to be done with the Raiders defense, but the coaching staff is committed to changing the way teams run the ball on them, and will continue to make moves until the problem is completely fixed. Which brings us to the most recent addition of Aaron Curry. Groves was nothing more than a stop gap at weak side linebacker for the defense and Hue Jackson pounced on the opportunity to upgrade the WILL position long term. Scouting reports on Curry are clear. He is great at setting the edge, getting off blocks, and filling running lanes. With that comes very susceptible pass coverage, but in simple terms, Groves wasn't exactly a blanket in pass coverage either.

Hue Jackson has made it clear since the day he was hired that he wanted to “Build a Bully”. Well...bullies don't get run over in the running game and Hue is focused on making sure that doesn't happen on his defense.


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