With former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan now running Cleveland’s defense, what can we expect from the Raiders defense this year under new coordinator John Marshall? Pressure. John spoke to the media for the first time recently, and is vowing to fix the Raider’s shoddy run defense by “focusing on fundamentals” and by doing whatever it takes to “bring pressure” to opposing QBs. The move to Marshall from Ryan was one of the more substantial that Oakland made on defense this year, with 9 of 11 starters from last years second half returning.
Ryan had been one of the few constants during his 5 years with Oakland. The team went through 4 head coaches, 4 offensive coordinators and 6 offensive play callers during the span that saw the team go 20-60. In 2006, Ryan’s defense was the 3rd ranked, but during his 5 years, Ryan allowed an NFL-worst 101 rushing touchdowns and the second most yards per game at 138.7. Their 154 sacks were 7th fewest in the league.
When Marshall watched film from every game from the past 2 seasons, the glaring weakness that he saw was the run defense. He said that the talent was there, but too often players were in the wrong spot. Said John, “That has everything to do with technique, and it has a whole lot to do with attitude and tackling. Those are the areas, disengaging blockers, fundamentals.”
John Marshall has been a DC in four other stops since joining Oakland in the off-season. He has been in the league since 1980, and has run defenses in Atlanta, San Fran, Carolina and Seattle. He won 2 Super Bowls as an assistant with the 49ers and a national championship in college with Southern California. Marshals is said to be placing heavy emphasis on the fundamentals with Oakland, making sure that players know where they are suppose to be on each play. “I’ve never been of the belief you can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” he said. “You just kind of have to stay with it longer, have patience and push them harder. Sure, it’s a matter of developing new habits for these guys and that’s not easy. That’s why the transition is not easy on the players.”
Under Al Davis, the Raiders have almost always been a man-to-man defense that rarely blitzes. Davis is known for his involvement on defense with players and former coaches talking about how he helps shape the philosophy of his team. Marshall said that he has enjoyed his opportunity to talk football with Davis, who was out again at practice with the team this week. “I know he knows defense,” Marshall said. “The great thing is, is he is like me. He’s long in the tooth and he’s old school. It’s line up, there’s your guy, cover him. And there goes the ball, you go out there and tackle him. … He’s old school. Keep it simple and play hard. And he’s very smart. He knows his football. Believe me.”
Marshall says that this years Oakland Raiders will continue to employ man-to-man defense, and they have been showing more blitzes, but some of that may be to prepare the offense for what opposing teams will bring. Marshall said that if the defensive line can’t generate enough QB pressure, he will start sending extra rushers.
For players that have been here a while, they want to see what happens in games before believing there has been a change. Said star CB Nnamdi Asomugha “That’s like a wait-and-see type thing because even in camps before we were doing a lot of blitzing and doing multiple things defensively and then when we get into the games, we were pretty basic.”
So, what can Raider fan expect from Oakland’s defense this year? I guess we will just have to “wait-and-see….”