If John Marshall is reading this, then he knows all we’re doing here is stating the obvious. When Al Davis handed the new Raider defensive coordinator his dossier upon hire, Marshall must have done a double take.
You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the last time the Oakland Raiders ranked in the top 10 in run defense. In fact, they have not finished higher than 22nd since that last trip to the Super Bowl, three of those times being ranked either second from bottom or dead last.
The writing is on the wall and the message is written in blood: Stop the run!
To date, nothing has been done – as far as personnel is concerned – to address the defensive woes. John Marshall’s replacement of Rob Ryan has been the lone move made on the defensive side of the ball.
While I don’t mean to insult Marshall, I fail to see how replacing the defensive coordinator alone will alleviate the problems that have persisted for the past six years.
With the draft looming and more roster moves to come, the Raiders are far from finished, but the laundry list grows with each passing day.
Only two new additions have been made to the roster for the defense thus far. Defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti and defensive back Jason Horton are the lone new Raider defensive acquisitions. Perhaps the Raiders are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again as they did with Chris Johnson last year. Johnson, like Horton and Boschetti, arrived as a journeyman yet played well enough that the organization felt comfortable in releasing free agent bust DeAngelo Hall halfway through the ’08 season (though it should be noted that Eric Allen could have suited up in ’08 and played better than Hall).
It goes without saying that there are needs in all aspects of the defense.
The defensive line is due for a massive upgrade. Many have looked to Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji as the first step in repairing the line. However, despite a recent red flag, Raji still looks to be a possible top 5 pick, perhaps leaving the Raiders Raji-less at number 7.
Gibril Wilson was not a great asset in pass coverage, but he was a sure tackler in the open field. The shock of the off-season, thus far, was Wilson’s abrupt release. Many sight his vocal displeasure with the front office for his exit. However you slice it, his departure has left a void in the defensive backfield.
Perhaps John Marshall saw something on game tape that makes him think all is not lost in Michael Huff. My money says Huff is better served as a nickel corner at best and his safety days are over.
Not all of the blame falls on the Raider defense for the six years of run defense misery. The offense must shoulder some of the blame too.
No matter how stellar a defense is, only so much can be done when the offense is going three-and-out, constantly putting pressure on weary legs that tire from too much field time.
Tom Cable will need to make sure that his offense is moving the chains and giving the “D” some much needed time to rest and evaluate between possessions. Even the Raider defense of ’06 that ranked in the top 10 in most categories rated a horrific 25th against the run. Look to Tom Walsh’s horrendous play calling and Aaron Brooks’ inability to get the center exchange right as symptoms of what happens when a bad “O” puts too much pressure on a good “D”.
The draft is just weeks away and the Raiders are not tipping their hand. Many want to see the #7 pick used for a receiver, others seek an offensive tackle. If John Marshall has a voice in the front office, he should be screaming for more help. Marshall might be the man with the master plan, but bringing back the same personnel from the 31st ranked run defense in ’08 is a blueprint for failure.