You don’t have a bottom of the barrel run defense for more than a decade without failing in some of the most fundamental areas. For the Oakland Raiders it’s been a dismal decade of stopping the run and more often than not it’s simply a case of poor execution. That’s why when Jason Tarver took over the silver and black defense his first priority was to go back to the basics.
Paul Gutierrez penned a nice piece for CSN Bay Area on Tarver’s quest to correct the Raiders tackling issues that have plagued the franchise for far too long.
During the Al Davis days Oakland’s basic 4-3 principles required every player to do their job on every snap. That meant if say a middle linebacker like Rolando McClain over committed in one direction and the play went the opposite way the only thing between the opposing runner and the end zone was a safety like Michael Huff who routinely whiffs on open field tackles.
Now Tarver’s task isn’t to try and make it so each player has less responsibility. Dumbing down a defense isn’t anyway to make it smarter. However Tarver has made sure to instill basic tackling principles in his team that will hopefully help to contain opposing offenses.
The back to basics approach might seem insulting for professionals but clearly it was needed and has actually been welcomed by the roster. Gutierrez quotes Mike Mitchell’s praise of Tarver’s approach.
“It’s more of a mentality and a desire to want to tackle. We can practice it as much as you want, but there’s that moment in the game, and the guy’s got the ball, you got to have that intent and desire to get him down. We’re all professionals, too, I’ve been playing since I was six, but you know how to tackle, you know how to tackle.”
Even more revealing is Tarver’s outlook on the proper technique of tackling and hitting.
“You’ve got to teach them to keep their hips down and their eyes up and their feet moving and the correct leverage and know where their help is. So we drill it…we emphasize it in the team period. We talk about, for example, if you and I are going to make a tackle and I’m on the outside of you, I’d say, Outside, outside, outside. That lets those players know that I’m on his outside. Those little things and knowing where your help is, makes you a better team, makes you a better tackling team. And then, the body position. So knowing where your help is, and the body position on contact are things we’ve emphasized since Day 1. And you can do that without pads on.”
Gotta love Tarver’s approach. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are the ones that get overlooked. Nothing guarantees the Raiders will be better defensively but at least there is a new approach being taken which in itself should yield different results.