With all the departures from 2012, the Oakland Raiders could potentially have nine new starters on the defensive side.
Excluding Lamarr Houston, there are no returning starters to the Raiders defensive line. Even at linebacker, Miles Burris is the only returning player who started games for Oakland’s defense in 2012. With that, G.M. Reggie McKenzie signed DTs Vance Walker and Pat Sims, DE Jason Hunter and redid the linebacking corps with Nick Roach, Kaluka Maiava and Kevin Burnett.
Given that the Raiders run a 4-3 base, in order to maintain that, drafting a DT was a clear necessity. In the first round, McKenzie drafted CB D.J. Hayden, who along with Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, could make a formidable secondary–but that’s another story. Regardless of the clear needs along the defensive line, a DT wasn’t drafted until their last pick in the sixth round and a DE wasn’t taken until the seventh.
With Sims being primarily a run stopping DT, it wouldn’t make sense to have him as a consistent starter along a 4-3 base defense. Unless sixth round selection David Bass can perform as well as he did in college (40.5 total sacks) and shine in camp, Hunter will be the starter. That doesn’t settle well with me.
What screams a 3-4 defense to me is the shortage of DTs. Walker, Sims and Houston, who can play at both D-Line spots, rotating in a 3-4 defense could keep their players fresh. Along with Hunter and Andre Carter–who are higher in age– a rotation makes a lot of sense for a depleted line.
Despite the need of a DT, OLB Sio Moore was picked up in the third round. Moore, a very talented player that can line up at both DE and OLB, made it clear to me that the Raiders could very well extensively use a 3-4 hybrid defense.
The silver-and-black have an excess of linebackers right now. Burris and Moore both seem like capable OLBs that would struggle in pass coverage out of a 4-3 set. Burris was severely ineffective in pass coverage in 2012, allowing an outstanding 94.1 catch percentage, a total 48/51 catches allowed. Moore seemed to struggle against faster receivers in college. In a 4-3 scheme he would have to cover more ground, and a 3-4 set could help him in that factor.
What was clear is their ability to produce a presence from off the edge. Burris generated a lot of tackles (70) and played well against the run. Moore showed he can generate a strong rush around offensive tackles, while also showing competence against the pass. A 3-4 set would fit both of these players well.
What I think will occur in 2013 is Oakland will deploy various 3-4 schemes while also using a 4-3 defense. Signing Burnett and Maiava, who played well in 4-3 defenses last year, implies that they will not torch their 4-3 sets from the playbook. Look for Moore to occasionally lineup at DE in 4-3 and 3-4 hybrid sets. His ability to dip below tackles reminded me of Kamerion Wimbley, and Burris’ usage could be similar.
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