Possible DC Candidates With NFL Experience for the Oakland Raiders
Oct 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders linebackers coach Bob Sanders during the game against the San Diego Chargers at O.co Coliseum. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
4. Bob Sanders
No, not that Bob Sanders. Bob Sanders is another one of Dennis Allen’s assistants who served as the Raiders’ linebackers coach in 2013 and 2014. Sanders, like Woods, doesn’t have a direct connection to Jack Del Rio’s staff, but did serve a short stint in Green Bay with the aforementioned Mike Trgovac, who does know Del Rio.
Sanders is a grand old man, at age 61, who spent nearly a quarter century as a college assistant, including spending the entire 90’s at Florida. He got his first NFL job in 2001 with the Miami Dolphins, working with Dave Wannstedt and DC Jim Bates. In Miami, Sanders worked with the great Zach Thomas in his prime: Thomas went to three Pro Bowls and was named First Team All-Pro twice in the four years Sanders coached him. The late great Junior Seau also spent a couple years with Sanders in Miami.
Sanders followed Bates to Green Bay, where he spent a year as Bates’ Defensive Ends coach, working with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman, who combined for 14.5 sacks that season. After the 2005 season, head coach Mike Sherman was fired by the Packers and Bates was passed over for the head coaching job in favor of Mike McCarthy.Bates quit, and Sanders stayed on, promoted to defensive coordinator under the new regime.
In 2006, the Packers acquired cornerback Charles Woodson and drafted Ohio State linebacker AJ Hawk, and Sanders kept the already-solid defensive unit humming along, finishing 12th in total defense in the NFL that season. His defense also tallied 46 sacks, with 15.5 of them belonging to Aaron Kampman in his first of two Pro Bowl seasons. The Packers 33 takeaways that year was 5th-best in the league, and the 23 interceptions was 3rd best. Charles Woodson set a career high (since broken) of eight interceptions on the year.
In 2007, the Packers defense ranked 11th in the league, and Aaron Kampman went to another Pro Bowl after recording 12 sacks. Strong Safety Atari Bigby, in his first year as a starter, had five picks. The Packers went on a deep playoff run after a 13-3 regular season, but lost to the Giants at home in the NFC title game. Sanders’ defense allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league, and held opposing ball carriers to only 3.9 yards per carry.
In 2008, Sanders’ defense took a giant step back despite Pro Bowl seasons from Charles Woodson and Nick Collins, who accounted for 14 total interceptions. Linebacker Nick Barnett missed significant time, as did Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Cullen Jenkins. The Packers only managed 27 sacks on the year and gave up 4.6 yards per carry and Sanders was let go in favor of Dom Capers after the year.
Sanders spent the next four years working with defensive linemen and linebackers in Buffalo. In 2009 he coaxed 25 sacks out of a defensive line unit filled with players in the twilight of their careers like Aaron Schobel while working as the D-line coach under Perry Fewell. In 2010 the Bills switched to a 3-4 under new DC George Edwards and Sanders was tasked with working with the outside linebackers, including teaching an old Chris Kelsay how to operate as a stand-up pass rusher. Kelsay logged the most tackles of his entire career in 2010.
In 2011, Sanders was re-united with Nick Barnett, who led the Bills in tackles, while Kelsay finished second on the team with five sacks. In 2012, Dave Wannstedt arrived in Buffalo as the defensive coordinator and Mario Williams arrived as the new pass rusher in free agency as the team began to run a hybrid 4-3 look again. Linebackers Nick Barnett, Kelvin Sheppard, Bryan Scott and Nigel Bradham combined for over 200 tackles, but the Bills defense fared very poorly against the run – 31st in the league – and head coach Chan Gailey and his entire staff were canned after the season to make way for Doug Marrone.
Sanders has been in Oakland for two years working with linebackers and, in that time, has developed Sio Moore into a competent weakside linebacker and helped Khalil Mack become the best rookie defensive player in the league last year. Sanders was crucial to the execution of Jason Tarver’s exotic blitz packages, as well, and also was a big part of veteran Nick Roach having the most productive season of his career in 2013 – 83 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a pick. With Roach, the Raiders were 13th against the rush in 2013. Sanders obviously faced an uphill battle with injuries in 2014, with Nick Roach and then Kaluka Maiava going down with injuries.
Sanders could not turn Miles Burris into a legitimate mike linebacker, and Jamar Chaney, Bojay Filimoeatu and Ray-Ray Armstrong were not adequate replacements either. Still, Khalil Mack and Sio Moore had excellent seasons in every phase of the game, and while both – especially Moore – are very raw and need more work, Sanders had both playing up to par as quality NFL starters who could compete for a starting job anywhere.
Sanders again doesn’t have a strong connection to Del Rio or his staff, but ran a 4-3 defense very successfully for a short time in Green Bay and of course has already spent a year working with the Raiders’ franchise pass-rusher and outside linebacker. Sanders is an experienced, veteran coach, if not a big name, but has had time as a defensive coordinator and was successful in his time, which is more than Tucker and Woods can say.
Next: Candidate #5: Mike Nolan