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Oakland Raiders Defense Reaches Back to Get a Step Ahead

Remember the 1983 L.A. Raiders defensive front-7?

Well, it looks like the Oakland Raiders are going back to that style of defense here in 2017. It’s still Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin on the edges but the team is changing things up the middle in 2017. Back in 1983, the Raiders had Reggie Kinlaw, a quick, penetrating, disruptive player at NT.

He would often shade the opposing C, attack that side and get right into the backfield. But somewhere along the evolution of football, they stopped using that type of player at the NT position. They started double-teaming NTs so they started using bigger guys that are harder to move at NT.

NTs used to get sacks and tackles for losses up until the time they became hole-pluggers. But like clothing and hairstyles, everything always comes back and DC John Pagano is bringing back the ’80s. Instead of using the 330-plus-pound NT, he uses 300-pound guys that are quicker off the ball.

In other words, his 3-4 defense uses all three down lineman as penetrators like 4-3 3-techniques. The NFL is a passing league now so your defense has to have that interior push on the QB. So Pagano put together his defensive system to be able to put heat on QBs on any given down.

That’s actually legendary owner Al Davis’ style to play the run on the way to the opposing QB. And Pagano’s defense pressured the QB and was a top-10 run defense the last three years in San Diego. Pagano had Brandon Mebane, a penetrator, playing NT for the Chargers and it worked out well.

The Raiders like the speed, quickness and pass rush ability of 2017 7th-round pick Treyvon Hester. So in the team’s minicamp, he moved ahead of space-eater Justin Ellis as the No. 1 NT. Since Pagano has changed the role of the NT in the Raiders’ defense, he has to change the role of the ILB.

That’s why the Raiders didn’t draft one of the smaller, ultra athletic ILBs or re-sign Perry Riley Jr. They need a big MIKE backer that can take on and shed blocks the way Matt Millen did in the ’80s. You can’t ask your D-line to simply penetrate if your ILBs can’t take on and shed blocks.

So they went with more of an old-school ILB in Marquel Lee in the fifth round. Many don’t see that as addressing the ILB position but he fits the role the Raiders want him to play. Head coach Jack Del Rio has been saying, “I don’t know if we’ve addressed ILB properly.

But I believe it’s more of a message for Lee to prove that he’s the guy the Raiders think he is. Put them with the edge rushers and the much improved secondary and the defense is ready to role. Look for the Raiders to be much better on defense, making them a complete team and a contender!

Just win, baby!