For years, the Oakland Raiders have had the most predictable defense in the NFL. The Raiders played strict man coverage and rarely, if ever, blitzed the quarterback. That's because no matter who held the clip board on the side line as the Raiders defensive coordinator, Al Davis had the final say when it came to the defensive play calling. Now that Mr. Davis has passed away the big question surrounding the Raiders off season is what will the defense look like?
After the passing of Mr. Davis, the Raiders essentially cleaned house this off season, only retaining a couple of assistant coaches. With the new regime in Oakland, there are two men who will decide what the defense is going to look like. The first is new head coach, Dennis Allen. He is a defensive minded coach who has worked as the New Orleans Saints secondary coach and as the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator. While Allen will have the final say on what the Raiders defense is going to look like, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will also have a say, and will be the one responsible for implementing Allen's plan.
We know what the Raiders offense will look like in 2012 because we have a lot of tape on what Greg Knapp likes to do with his offenses. That luxury is not present with the Raiders defense. Dennis Allen spent one season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL before being named head coach of the Raiders this past off season. His choice as defensive coordinator spent a decade as an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers, including five years as an outside linebackers coach, before spending one season as the co-defensive coordinator of the Stanford Cardinals.
What we do know about the Raiders defense is that it will not be anywhere near as one dimensional as it was under Al Davis. We know from Allen's past with the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints that the Raiders will utilize the blitz much more than they have in the past. We also know from comments by various players such as Michael Huff and new comer corner back Ron Bartell, that the defense is going to show a lot of different looks, both in the front seven and the secondary.
It is still early, but we may not know what the Raiders defense will truly look like until a few games into the regular season. It is doubtful that the Raiders will show off much of their defense in training camp or in the pre season. Allen and Tarver are aware of the fact that other teams do not know how to game plan their defense yet, and they will not give away that advantage. Given what has been said about how varied the Raiders defense will be in 2012, it may take teams a few weeks of acquiring game tape before they can start analyzing tendencies and weaknesses of the new defensive scheme.
With no incentive to pull back the curtain on the Raiders new defensive scheme any time soon, I full expect to continue hearing reports that the defense is practicing a wide variety of fronts and schemes. That leaves offensive coordinators who face the Raiders early in 2012 with no other option than to expect the unexpected.