- Feb 2, 2006
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An article on our defense....
Defense is thinking ahead
Preparation focuses on avoiding recurring mental mistakes.
By Jason Jones
Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 24, 2006
ALAMEDA -- Once again, they're the forgotten unit … until someone blows an assignment.
As in recent offseasons, much of the focus has been on the Raiders' offense -- and for good reason. How inept can an offense be with a 1,000-yard receiver, 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher?
Because of the offense's problems, it's easy to overlook the defense -- until LaDainian Tomlinson is running untouched out of the backfield without a Raiders defender in sight.
Entering the third season under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the maligned unit says it's ready to put behind the glaring mental errors that become magnified when the offense doesn't produce.
"We've had three minicamps now, and I can count on one hand how many mental mistakes we've had as a defense, which is excellent," third-year safety Stuart Schweigert said. "That's what you want. The biggest way of getting beat in the NFL is not knowing what your assignment is."
The Raiders are confident in the strides the defense will make, using several players who hadn't taken many defensive snaps before last season. That included two rookies -- cornerback Fabian Washington and linebacker Kirk Morrison -- who finished the season as starters.
Schweigert said that unlike in the previous two offseasons, the defense is "fine-tuning" schemes and getting rookie defensive back Michael Huff and rookie linebackers Thomas Howard and Darnell Bing acclimated.
There were no major free-agent pickups, just the quiet additions of cornerbacks Duane Starks and Tyrone Poole and defensive end Lance Johnstone.
Familiarity breeds confidence, and Schweigert said he believes it will carry over into the season.
"That's the biggest thing, knowing the defense inside and out," Schweigert said. "And now I think it's evolved to where not only do players know their position, but they know the position on either side of them."
Knowing where everyone should be is good, but the Raiders still need to take the next step and turn that knowledge into game-changing plays.
Last year's Raiders defense wasn't able to overcome the surprising struggles of the offense. It forced just 19 turnovers, including a league- and franchise-low five interceptions.
"Sometimes it's luck, sometimes it's a making a great play -- making a great break on the ball," Schweigert said. "And we had opportunities last year. Sometimes guys would knock it down instead of catching it, or we'd get a pass interference call."
If the defense makes those plays, it won't be overlooked, for sure.
Tight end James Adkisson and wide receivers Doug Gabriel, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter were among active Raiders who played in the fifth annual Maddbacker Charity Celebrity Basketball Game at Arco Arena last Friday.
The most relevant football news for the Raiders was receiver Ronald Curry's participation.
In 2004, Curry, the former North Carolina quarterback, emerged as a playmaker. He had 50 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games before he tore his left Achilles' tendon against Kansas City. At the time, Curry led the Raiders in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Curry didn't have the chance to prove 2004 wasn't a fluke. He tore the same Achilles' during a Week 2 loss to Kansas City last season.
A healthy Curry could help an offense in which running back LaMont Jordan caught more passes (70) than every wide receiver except Porter (76).