Michael Huff has nothing but love for Al Davisand rightfully so. Huff Daddy was among Al’s scholarship athletes that were guaranteed a spot on the team no matter how they performed. To Huff’s credit he’s really come on by playing the best ball of his career the last three seasons.
Still, there was never a clearly defined role for Huff in Davis’ defense. Yes, we all knew it was AD who was the true defensive coordinator of the Raiders and we didn’t need Huff to confirm that but he did exactly that today. When asked about the new look silver and black D under Dennis Allen Huff didn’t hold back in expressing the difference between Al’s scheme and Allen’s.
“Nothing personal, but obviously, before with Al, rest in peace, he had his hands in all the defense. He had all his little things he liked to do. Now with D.A. (Dennis Allen) out there, we’ve got all kinds of blitzes, we’ve got 3-4, 4-3 fronts, just a lot of variety and different things going on. So I’m going to love it.”
Huff actually went on to say he was excited about being able to play in a “real defense”.
That might seem like a subtle shot at Davis – and it is – but it is also the brutal honest truth. Davis never adapted his schemes to stop more modern NFL offenses. The same old 4-3 with man coverage was the standard and the Raiders rarely deviated from that philosophy.
For a guy like Huff, who does so many things so well yet nothing great, it was a case of a square peg being fit into a round hole. His up and down play early in his career had Huff looking like draft bust. Despite Huff’s improved play there was still talk of changing his position again this time making the roaming safety into a full-time nickel corner.
Luckily for Huff along came Coach Allen. In Allen’s scheme Huff will be everywhere and nowhere on the field of play much like how the Green Bay Packers put former Raider Charles Woodson to good use.
Now this isn’t exactly an entirely new usage of Huff. He’s been playing all over the field since he was a rookie. The difference this time around is that it won’t just be Huff moving all over as the entire defense will shift from down to down. The goal is to keep the offense constantly guessing.
“We don’t want (the offense) knowing pre-snap what we’re in. The main thing is, they have to learn as the quarterback drops back, still guessing what we’re in, kind of learn on the fly. Then hopefully our front four will get after them.”
That’s where Allen’s approach differs greatly for AD’s. Whereas Huff would lineup in different positions under the Davis scheme the basic principles remained the same. If Huff was in the slot then odds are he’s playing man on the slot receiver. If he’s the lone deep safety then the Raiders are in their standard man scheme with Huff left as the last line of defense. All of this could be easily sniffed out by opposing QBs pre-snap.
Under Allen it will be Huff unleashed as he’ll blitz, mix up coverages and create general havoc. Basically Allen will be putting to use all of those physical attributes that endeared Huff to Davis. So in many ways all Allen is doing is giving new life to Al’s ideals. He also could be giving Huff a second lease on life in the NFL. If this new scheme has anything close to the same effect on Huff’s career as it did Woodson’s then we’ll be seeing the start of something that was previously a pipedream – Michael Huff in a Pro Bowl uniform.