An Article On Our Defense...

Angry Pope

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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.


Crossovers

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).
 
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.

I think maybe Curry should just sit out the KC games ;)
 
I'm fairly confident that Huff and Howard will be upgrades at their respective position, but to me our biggest single concern is DT/DE. As much as people like Kelly at DT, I think it's better for the team to see him play DE (opposite Burgess). Brayton is a stiff that not only won't get many sacks, he will get pushed around in the run game. The team needs some "no name" guys like Rashad Moore and Antajj Hawthorne to play well along with Sapp and Sands.

Even if we are merely average at DT, our back seven should be fine IMO.

I'm cautiously optimistic about our DEFENSE. I love the improved speed and youth. I think Rob Ryan's unit will turn heads this year - IF - DT is sorted out.
 
I know we don't agree but I like Kelly at DT. I think he's going to excel there. Don't forget Johnston even though he'll be a situational pass rush specialist I think he'll give Burgess some help. Between Sapp and Kelly we should be ok at DT (maybe). After them I 'm not so sure.

Still my concern is consistent pressure on the QB. Last year if Burgess didn't provide the pressure we rarely got any. In that situation our secondary was screwed.

Huff is an exciting player as witnessed in the videos AP has provided.
 
I LOVE Kelly at the 5. He's an absolute monster at it. (Pssst, that's what a lot of people call a base DE.) But he'll be even better at the 3 (Sapp's tackle position - some people call it the under tackle, but that's scheme specific. Either way, it's not the nose (or 1) who gets doubled).

His biggest problem at the 5 is his lack of speed. He gets sacks by using his inside move, not by going around the corner. Unless he develops a credible outside move, his pass rush can be neutralized at the 5. 4 sacks in 1 season is more than Brayton got in his full season at the same position, so that says a lot about his strength. Brayton on the other hand will disengage his blocker and tackle a RB from behind, which Kelly wasn't as successful at.

With Kelly at the 3, he can go either way against the OG and still be close enough for a sack, unlike at the 5. Will we lose a little bulk at DE? Yep, but if we can keep Kelly penetrating, we'll get more pressure on the QB.
 
Rupert said:
I LOVE Kelly at the 5. He's an absolute monster at it. (Pssst, that's what a lot of people call a base DE.) But he'll be even better at the 3 (Sapp's tackle position - some people call it the under tackle, but that's scheme specific. Either way, it's not the nose (or 1) who gets doubled).

His biggest problem at the 5 is his lack of speed. He gets sacks by using his inside move, not by going around the corner. Unless he develops a credible outside move, his pass rush can be neutralized at the 5. 4 sacks in 1 season is more than Brayton got in his full season at the same position, so that says a lot about his strength. Brayton on the other hand will disengage his blocker and tackle a RB from behind, which Kelly wasn't as successful at.

With Kelly at the 3, he can go either way against the OG and still be close enough for a sack, unlike at the 5. Will we lose a little bulk at DE? Yep, but if we can keep Kelly penetrating, we'll get more pressure on the QB.
Well I happen to agree with all that. There is a first time for everything.

But really I always thought Kelly would be a natural UT and very good there.. We'll see.
 
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