Are The Raiders Transitioning To A 3-4 Defense?

Give Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. credit. After an underwhelming defensive effort against Cincinnati (rushing four and blitzing never), the defensive brain trust in Oakland has added a menu of fancy toppings to a very vanilla week one defense. Despite both having strong ties to 4-3 schemes, Del Rio and Norton Jr. have been anything but stubborn in their defensive philosophy.

On Sunday, they showed their versatility as coaches and went away from the 4-3 base – something they didn’t show at all in week one and very little in week two.

The results were pretty good.

The interior line got plenty of push out of 3-4 sets against Cleveland and while Aldon Smith was largely held in check as a pass-rusher, the Browns had no answer for Khalil Mack (2 sacks).

Credit: CBS Sports /
Khalil Mack (52) and Aldon Smith (99) are more difficult to double-team from a 3-4 front.

Ray Ray Armstrong played only 9 snaps against Cleveland (he played 67 against Cincinnati), but was more productive in the new rotation, recording the Raiders’ first sack of the season.

As pass-rushers, the 3-4 allowed Mack and Smith to operate in space and added a run-stuffer to an already stout defensive line (yes, the secondary is very much a work in progress). The tactical adjustment made Mack and Smith no less effective against the run.

Could the Raiders be transitioning to a 3-4 base now that Aldon Smith is on the roster? It certainly seems that way.

If nothing else, Del Rio and Norton Jr. have proven this much through three weeks: they’re unpredictable.

“It’s cool when you go into game-planning meetings and know anything is possible,” T.J. Carrie (who unexpectedly moved to safety last week) told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Whatever it takes, let’s draw it up and beat this team.”

The Raiders face an 0-3 Bears team this week that will likely be without starting quarterback, Jay Cutler. Chicago is averaging 15.3 points per game and failed to score any points last week with Culter and Alshon Jeffrey (expected to be back this week) out of the lineup.

Oakland is slated to be favorites on the road (-3) for the first time since 2012.

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