By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 11:00 am in Oakland Raiders.
As much as Tom Cable has wisely distanced himself from Lane Kiffin, in one area the two were of a like mind.
When it came to defense, specifically defending against the run, it was mostly the fault of Rob Ryan.
The difference is Kiffin essentially pointed the finger at Ryan in the most damaging way possible. He also brought Al Davis into the mix, playing to the longheld belief that the Raiders play defense Al’s way and that the owner was even involved in game plans on a week-to-week basis.
Kiffin tried to fire Ryan after his first season and was told no, with Davis bringing the defensive coordinator for his final season. You wonder if Ryan came back because Davis really wanted him as the defensive coordinator, or if Davis simply wanted to spite Kiffin.
The toxic days are over, and so is Ryan is gone, moving on to Cleveland after his contract expired.
But make no mistake, as the Raiders made little effort in the offseason to change the personnel in their 31st-ranked rushing defense, other than the drafting of a raw in-the-box safety in Mike Mitchell, they also implicated Ryan and his staff for the deficiency.
(You could also include defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, but he played so seldom in Washington it’s hard to know if he can be a factor or if he’ll even make the team).
If Ryan wasn’t so busy trying to put together a defense in Cleveland, he could probably feel the force of the wheels from the Raiders team bus.
Ryan used to often say the Raiders system was designed to put their superior players in position to make plays _ the inference being Oakland had ll the talent it needed and that it was his job to make it work.
At the minicamp, the words coming out of Cable’s mouth could have been Ryan’s, while at the same time leaving no doubt the former defensive coordinator ran a loose ship where details and assignments were missed.
“What it gets down to is I think we have some talented players on defense, and so getting them in the right place and them understanding what you’re asking them to do, and teaching how to play the game with their hands, and how to tackle, and how to blitz and how to cover the right way,” Cable said. “If you ask me what’s going to be different, that’s how we’re going to be different. We’re going to coach it and teach it better.”
Doubtful you’ll hear any response from Ryan, who will no doubt throw his considerable weight into building up some of the Cleveland Browns as unblockable and unstoppable.
You’re not hearing anything from Marshall, either, as Cable thinks its best at this time if he does all the talking.
Linebacker Thomas Howard said it’s been strictly fundamentals since Marshall arrived and isn’t sure what the defense will look like.
“We’re still feeling out John, seeing if he’s going to lean toward pressure or what,” Howard said.
Regarding blitzes, “Howard said, “We’re putting in a lot more pressures but you still want to see how it’s going to translate in a game. Even when Rob was here, we did it out here but you still want to see how it goes in games.”
Howard believes Marshall’s vast experience will be of some help.
“He’s been around the game for so long, he’s seen it when teams went (1-15) and he’s seen it when teams were (15-1),” Howard said. “He’s been to the big dance. he’s been at the top three in defense. He’s been in the bottom three in defense. He’s seen it all.”
If Marshall’s strict adherence to fundamentals _ Howard said the Raiders are doing things he did in high school _ pays off in one of those top three finishes, then the Ryan was the problem. If it is one of his bottom three finishes, Ryan is a scapegoat, and Marshall will be next up for scrutiny.