Raiders Film Room: Defensive Line Coach Brentson Buckner Could Bring New Pressures to the Defense

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden couldn’t have been pleased with the production out of his defensive line during the 2018 season. As a unit they ranked 30th against the run and the defensive line accounted for a total of only 10 sacks. Former Defensive Line Coach, Mike Trgovac, was reassigned to the role of “Senior Defensive Assistant”. Gruden then brought in the first of many former Clemson players to join the team, as he hired Brentson Buckner away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Buckner had served as the Buccaneers defensive line coach during the 2018 season which was his 11th season in a coaching role. Before coaching Brentson was a 2nd round pick (50th overall) of the Pittsburg Steelers in 1994 and would go on to play 12 total seasons in the NFL.

The defensive line he oversaw in 2018 ranked 24th against the run but accounted for 30.5 of the teams 38 sacks. While the staff will certainly look to improve their run defense, getting the Raiders young defensive linemen to the opposing quarterback will be the main goal this year. He will have some solid players to work with in second year players like defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall as well as defensive end Arden Key. General Manager Mike Mayock also added rookie defensive ends Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, and Quinton Bell in the 2019 NFL Draft for Buckner to mold.

Having to rely on young players to consistently produce comes with a great deal of risk. They tend to run “hot” and “cold” throughout the season as they work to master techniques and grow into the NFL. There are ways to make life a little easier for them by designing pressure packages that do not require them to consistently win one on one matchups. While Tampa Bay interim Defensive Coordinator Mark Duffner ran the defense, Brentson Buckner certainly had a level of input and implemented the system with his players. Let’s take a look at a few of the pressures the Buccaneers ran to get an idea of what he may bring to the Raiders defense this season.



There are some plays that are so widely used that they have a universal name. That is the case with this first pressure which is know as “NCAA” but also commonly referred to as “America’s Blitz” because “every team in America runs it”. What makes this one stand out, and will be a common theme, is the “zone blitz” principles. In this example the boundary defensive end takes a hard step forward to sell the rush before dropping into coverage. The strong side linebacker attacks the left “C” gap in order to widen the left tackle as the field defensive end attacks the left “A” gap in order to occupy the left guard.

This action “opens the gate” for the Mike linebacker and gives him a free run at the quarterback. Plays that incorporate linemen dropping into coverage with another player taking his place strain the communication and blocking assignments of the offensive line. It also generates a sack without forcing a defender from having to beat his man. Every free run at the quarterback the staff can scheme for these young guys will help take some pressure off of the secondary and add to their confidence.


If every NFL defensive coordinator was surveyed to determine which pressure package they would prefer to have consistent success with, “Drop-8” would most likely be the overwhelming favorite. Getting a sack with a 3-man pressure has to feel like stealing for them.

On this example the boundary 3-technique drops into Cover-2 zone coverage while the boundary defensive end widens the right “C” gap. The field 3-technique hits the left side “B” gap with the intention of occupying both the left guard and tackle as the field defensive end twists to the “A” gap. This “T-E” stunt is another way to get free runners to the quarterback. Only sending a three-man rush can lead to giving the passer extra time in the pocket but the dropping defenders can also muddy the quarterbacks pre-snap read, like it did in this example.

It can also make finding an open target difficult with eight player defending against five receivers. This play would be considered a “coverage sack” more than a true pressure but it is once again forced by confusing the offense. Even though the player’s ability to execute this play that lead to a sack, it was the coaching staff that put them in position to do so. Hopefully there are more scheme sacks this season.

“Odd Double-Mugg” 

These last two will come from 3-man fronts which would increase that ability of Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther to disguise exactly which players he wants to rush. Once again the intent will be to stress the protection calls of the offensive line. “Odd Double-Mugg” has a similar appearance as the “Double-A” alignments that Guenther is known for.

Having athletic defensive tackles like the Raiders do will make these “odd” fronts even more effective. Hurst could line up at the “Nose” with Hall and Ferrell manning the ends. That would give Key or Crosby the ability to get a running start as they attack the offensive line. The player flexibility would let the staff get their best players on the field for obvious passing situations as well as force the opposition to prepare for multiple fronts and personnel.

Prior to the snap the “Sam” and “Mike” linebackers “mug” both “B” gaps while the “Rover” stacks the boundary end. This alignment gives the offense six defenders in the box to account for. At the snap of the ball both the “Sam” and “Rover” drop into Cover-3 zones. The “Mike” attacks the inside shoulder of the center occupying both the right guard and center while collapsing the “A” gap. As the boundary end attacks the “C” gap it opens the gate for the “Nose” to twist to the “B” gap.

While the right guard does a great job of reading the stunt and securing his gap, the coverage holds up and allows the defensive end time to get home. No pass rush design is going to create consistent pressure and the Raiders will need their secondary to do their jobs. It’s not hard to see athletic guys like Hurst and Hall breaking through the line if they are given time.


Even though these plays focus on linebackers, Guenther could employ a third safety. With Erik Harris, Johnathan Abram, and Karl Joseph on the field the staff would have more speed to work with. They should get into the backfield quicker as well as hold up in coverage better.

This play is known as “Flush” and it incorporates an “odd” front with double stunts to attack the offense. At the snap both the “Mike” and “Rover” drop in their man coverage assignments. As the boundary end takes on the outside shoulder of the left guard, the “Nose” twists all the way out to the “C” gap. Simultaneously the field end attacks the “B” gap while the “Sam” linebacker twits to the field “C” gap. When the left tackle has to drop off and pick up the “Nose” it gives the end leverage to shed the left guard’s block and bring down the quarterback.

Looking at this play it’s pretty obvious that speed is key. Those twists to the “C” gaps have to cover a ton of ground in a short time. Getting the teams hard hitting safeties involved seems like a perfect fit and would add to the personnel packages that opponents have to game plan against. Anything that you can force a team to prepare for limits their ability to focus on your core system. Getting your opposition to waste even half an hour can be beneficial given the limited amount of time teams are allowed to practice

Many Raider games could end up as shootouts this season with all of the new weapons adorning the offensive roster and getting to the quarterback will be paramount. Until someone like rookie Clelin Ferrell can grow into a dominate pass rusher the defense will need to scheme pressures. Brentson Buckner has proven he can get his squad to produce and Guenther will need him to recreate his past successes. This team could be in the playoff hunt if he does.

twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL


1 thought on “Raiders Film Room: Defensive Line Coach Brentson Buckner Could Bring New Pressures to the Defense

  1. great breakdown and analysis

    a lot of young developing talent for Raiders on DL

    is there any truth to rumors that Arden Key has lost weight/ strength?

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