It remains to be seen whether the Raiders will play better defense under John Marshall than they did under Rob Ryan, but according to a top 20 ranking by the Sporting News, the Raiders have upgraded in that area.
RealScouts, a group of former NFL scouts utilized by TSN, ranks Marshall No. 12 in its top 20 defensive coordinators. Ryan, who departed the Raiders after his contract expried and was hired in Cleveland by Eric Mangini, was ranked No. 20.
Marshall is the third-ranked defensive coordinator in the AFC West, trailing Denver’s Mike Nolan (huh?) at No. 7 and Clancy Pendergast of Kansas City at No. 12, and ahead of San Diego’s Ron Rivera at No. 14.
Meanwhile, RealScouts ranked former Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp of Seattle (No. 14) ahead of current passing game coordinator Ted Tollner (No 19).
In ranking NFL head coaches 1 through 32, Tom Cable was rated No. 30, ahead of only Tampa Bay’s Raheem Morris and Denver’s Josh McDaniels.
Other RealScouts top-ranked players and where Raiders and AFC West players are ranked in the top 20 (centers and fullbacks were ranked through 10; return specialists through 15):
Quarterback– Peyton Manning, Indianapolis. JaMarcus Russell is not ranked. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is No. 6 and Kansas City’s Matt Cassel is No. 20.
Running backs–Adrian Peterson, Minnesota. Darren McFadden is ranked No. 12. San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson is ranked No. 8.
Wide receivers– Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona. No Raiders receivers are ranked. Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall is No. 17.
Tight ends– Jason Witten, Dallas. Raiders tight end Zach Miller is ranked No. 12. San Diego tight end Antonio Gates is ranked No. 5.
Fullbacks– Greg Jones, Jacksonville. No Raiders fullbacks are ranked in the top 10 (voting tabulated before Lorenzo Neal signed as a free agent). Denver fullback Peyton Hillis is ranked No. 10.
Guards– Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota. Raiders left guard Robert Gallery is ranked No. 12. Chiefs guard Brian Waters is No. 3, Chargers Kris Dielman is No. 5.
Tackles– Ryan Clady, Denver. No Raiders tackles are ranked. San Diego’s Marcus McNeil is No. 18.
Centers– Nick Mangold, New York Jets. Raiders center Samson Satele is not ranked in the top 10 (nor is former center Jake Grove). Chargers center Nick Hardwick is No. 2.
Defensive ends– Jared Allen, Minnesota. No Raiders or AFC West defensive ends are ranked.
Defensive tackles– Albert Haynesworth, Washington. No Raiders defensive tackles are ranked. San Diego tackles Luis Castillo (a 3-4 end) and Jamal Williams are ranked Nos. 9 and 12.
Outside linebackers– DeMarcus Ware, Dallas. No Raiders outside linebackers were ranked. Most picks were outside pass rushers in a 3-4 defense. San Diego’s Shawne Merriman was ranked No. 3 and Shaun Phillips No. 14.
Inside linebackers– Brian Urlacher, Chicago. Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison is ranked No. 10.
Cornerbacks– Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders. Chris Johnson is not ranked. Denver’s Champ Bailey is ranked No. 3. San Diego’s Antonio Cromartie is No. 7. DeAngelo Hall, a Raider for eight games last season, is somehow ranked No. 8.
Safeties– Ed Reed Baltimore. No Raiders safeties are ranked. Denver’s Brian Dawkins is ranked No. 7.
Place kickers– Stephen Gostkowski, New England. Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski is not ranked in the top 10, nor are any AFC West place kickers.
Punters– Shane Lechler, Raiders. San Diego punter Mike Scifres is No. 4 and Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt No. 7 in the top 10.
Return specialist–Reggie Bush, New Orleans. Raiders punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins was ranked No. 15.