Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oakland Raiders need to retool Defense in the trenches

Part IV – The Defense

The Oakland Raiders finished the season on a two-game winning streak, which was nice to see, but a 5-11 record and another top ten draft slot. This is the last of a four part article regarding necessary changes, written as if I was tasked with turning the Oakland Raiders around.

I’ve addressed 1) The Head Coach 2) The Front Office 3) The Offense and the 2009 NFL Draft in previous articles.

The word change is necessary due to the fact that what has gone is the same as if has been in the past everything has been done Al’s way. More than likely this will continue, but for the good of the team and the loyal Raider Nation a change is necessary.

In my book Al Davis has two choices here 1) to remain as the owner and bring someone in to handle the football operations. Call the guy a buffer if you like but a strong front office personnel person or General Manager is necessary because it is blatantly obvious that Al has failed in this capacity.

The defense will get a makeover starting with the coaching staff; the defense was a big part of the Raiders record. The change needs to include personnel and scheme.

Let’s start with the Defensive Coordinator, Rob Ryan an Al Davis favorite. His contract is up and according to published reports by’s Adam Schefter & the San Francisco Chronicle he will join new Cleveland Head Coach Eric Mangini as Defensive Coordinator of the Browns.

Ryan was hired prior to the 2004 season; the Raiders have struggled against the run every year, prior to his arrival the team was giving up an average of 156.9 yards per game.

The 2008 Raiders finished 27th in total defense (360.9 yards per game), 31st against the run (159.7 yards) and 10th against the pass (201.2 yards). This can be attributed to one structural problem, a total disregard for the Defensive Tackle position.

This lack of judgment is the main reason the Raiders have been gashed yearly against the run. I give you Rod Coleman fifth round pick in 1999, Junior Ioane fourth round pick in 2000 and Anttaj Hawthorne sixth round pick in 2005; these are the last three Defensive Tackles drafted by the Oakland Raiders.

Tommy Kelly was an undrafted free agent in 2004, of the 23 DT’s from that draft class only 13 are currently on active NFL rosters. The Raiders need to cut ties with Terdell Sands & William Joseph and add two DT’s in a rotation with Tommy Kelly & Gerard Warren.

Instead of drafting at the position Al has chose to throw money at the problem and has brought in several past-their-prime or fringe free agents such as Sam Adams, Ted Washington, Dana Stubblefield, John Parrella, Warren Sapp, Ed Jasper, Gerard Warren, Donnell Washington, Terdell Sands, Rashad Moore, Josh Shaw and William Joseph.

This practice has to stop; the Oakland Raiders biggest priority of defense is to stop the run. This team needs a big run-stuffing defensive tackle, one that demands a double team. The team needs to draft a defensive tackle but it isn’t necessary to do so in the first round, this is where scouting comes into play.

Ron Brace will be available in the third round,

Until this team possesses a person to fill this role the team will struggle when ran on. Conversely, the team has drafted more defensive ends over the years, ten to be exact. If the goal is to stop the run why not draft more players at the defensive tackle position to be effective against the run than smaller ends.

The Raiders have selected Tony Bryant round two 1999, DeLawrence Grant round three 2001, Chris Cooper round six 2001, Kenyon Coleman round five 2002, Tyler Brayton round one 2003, Sam Williams round three 2003, Shawn Johnson round six 2004, Quentin Moses round three 2007, Jay Richardson round five 2007 and Trevor Scott round six 2008.

The Raiders have also been deficient in drafting linebackers, with the exception of Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard.

Both are good young linebackers that are better against the pass than against the run. I like Kirk Morrison’s game and development a lot but the team needs a bigger middle linebacker that has the bulk to stack and hold up when teams run up the middle.

This is one of the reasons that I stated in early November that the Raiders need to draft USC MLB Rey Maualuga with the number seven pick in the draft. I’m aware that the team needs an offensive tackle and a solid tackle can be had in round two or three.

William Beatty is an offensive tackle from UCONN rising up the draft board that could be had in the second round.

More than likely the top three or four tackles in the draft and the top wide receiver Michael Crabtree, should he declare, will be off the board when the Raiders draft.

The Raiders need to have a draft day game plan and establish an identity on both sides of the ball. Since we’re discussing the defense that identity needs to be that you will not run on the Oakland Raiders. The team needs to draft an impact player with the first pick and Rey Maualuga, SLB Aaron Curry and FS Taylor Mays all meet that criterion.

The Raiders are in need of a SLB but if Maualuga is drafted to play MLB, Kirk Morrison could play SLB. Having a DT the demands a double-team would help to keep the linebackers clean so they’ll be free to make plays. Other linebackers the team could add Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava, Clay Matthews and Clint Simtim.

The Raiders need to sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha to a well deserved long-term deal and re-sign CB Chris Johnson. Another free agent that the Raiders need to resign is P Shane Lechler.

It is time to move FS Michael Huff for a draft pick; he has been a bust, he was drafted to be a playmaker and has made very little plays. SS Gibril Wilson is a player but needs a running mate at FS. If Taylor Mays isn’t selected another safety the Raiders could select in the third round is Kevin Ellison who is versatile enough to play both free & strong safety.

Whoever the new Defensive Coordinator is he needs to get this unit solid fundamental football, stop the run and get after the passer. It is important to take away the run and force an opponent to do something else.

The Raiders are in a division that runs the ball and the team hasn’t been consistently competitive due to not being able to stop the run as well as making plays on third down and getting off of the field. These are the issues facing Al Davis and the new Defensive Coordinator.

Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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