Silver And Black Linings Playbook: 4-3 For Now
By Bess Shapiro
It was not a definitive answer, but Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen let it be known that the 4-3 defense isn’t changing anytime soon. With an abysmal defensive performance last season and the free agency pickups earlier in the year, all indications were that a 3-4 defense was in the offing. Not necessarily.
“We’re basing out of a 4-3 just like we did last year, but we’re going to have the ability to have some 3-4 looks and being able to implement those things and try to make them as simple as we can for our players as well as try to make it complicated for the offense,” Allen said during a media session at rookie mini-camp.
So 4-3, with a twist.
Allen said speculation over a 3-4 defense had been spurred by the Raiders linebacker free-agent pickups in the offseason. “Now all of a sudden we’re going to a 3-4. Well, that’s not really necessarily the case," Allen said. "I mean when you look at the team, you’ve got to develop depth across the team, and fortunately for us we feel good about the linebacker situation.”
The Raiders added former Dolphins linebacker Kevin Burnett, former Bears LB Nick Roach and former Browns LB Kaluka Maiava to the roster earlier in the spring. All can play in a 3-4 formation. Draft pick Sio Moore out of the University of Connecticut can play both because he can rush the quarterback and play in coverage.
There is also rookie defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who has the potential to be a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end. With numerous off-the-field incidents at Oklahoma, he was considered undraftable by many. Allen seemed confident his character was on the rebound and his best years were ahead of him. With his size and strength he “looks like an NFL tackle,” Allen said.
“[H]e’s the kind of guy that’s got really good ability to stop the run. Pass rush is an area where he can continue to improve on, but he’s a guy that we’re anxious to see when he really gets a chance to work,” Allen said.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a complete shift in the defensive scheme doesn’t make sense in terms of a learning curve for new players, experts say. But with such a versatile group of linebackers, the Raiders can certainly introduce 3-4 schemes gradually. Allen also sees linebackers contributing elsewhere.
“When you really look at it, the quickest way we’re going to help this football team is improving the special teams and that’s a big part of it,” Allen said.