There is plenty of speculation about whether the Raiders might convert to a 3-4 defensive scheme next season. On Wednesday, coach Hue Jackson fueled the fire by confirming that he isn’t averse to switching schemes.
“I am not wedded to anything,” Jackson said, when asked if he is a staunch proponent of the 4-3. “I am wedded to what’s going to help us win. As we continue to move forward, that’s the whole thing about everything you do – you have an opportunity to see what’s there, and you move forward and get better.
“I’m not going t stand pat and be like we’ve been, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. I am going to always look to make this team and this organization better as long as I am here. Obviously, there are some areas we have to shore up and get better in and, I guarantee you, we will get better at them.”
The Raiders last ran the 3-4 in 2004, when Rob Ryan was the defensive coordinator. As we all know, that was a disaster from the outset.
Warren Sapp flopped in his conversion from defensive tackle to defensive end. The Raiders failed to get much pressure on the quarterback. End of experiment. Ryan switched back to the 4-3 in 2005.
Jackson will get another look at the 3-4 on Saturday, when the Raiders play a Kansas City Chiefs team coached by defensive-minded Romeo Crennel.
Crennel started as a 4-3 guy, but he converted to the 3-4 after spending time with former coach Bill Parcells. He said he “latched” on to the scheme because of the versatility it allows.
“If you have the right people to play it, it can be pretty effective because the end of the line linebackers are the adjusters and you don’t have to take an inside linebacker and walk him out. In today’s game where they try to spread you out all the time and get linebackers to walk out, it’s easier for us. Plus, the offenses have to determine which guy has to rush, and that’s not always an easy determination for them.”
As Crennel said, the key is having the right personnel. The Raiders didn’t have it in 2004, and they might not have all the pieces right now.
Yet, reading between the lines, Jackson intends to make some changes in the offseason and some of those just might be to address a change in schemes.
MCFADDEN, FORD SORE
Running back Darren McFadden and wide receiver Jacoby Ford sat out today because of the residual effect from their workout with a team trainer Tuesday, Jackson said.
“They did OK (Tuesday) but they are a little sore today,” Jackson said. “We’ll see where they are tomorrow and then we’ll know more. They ran quite a bit yesterday, and they were on it pretty good.”
Neither McFadden nor Ford was available during the media-access period, so we can’t provide their take on where they stand in relation to a possible return for Saturday’s game.
The fact Jackson said free safety Michael Huff (hamstring) needs to practice Thursday if he is to play Saturday, that likely holds true for McFadden, Ford and defensive tackle John Henderson.
Every week, I get asked numerous questions about rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Is he going to play? Why doesn’t Jackson put him in late in one-sided games? How does he look in practice?
Well, I took many of those questions to Pryor in an attempt to provide some insight into a player who missed almost all of training camp after arriving via the supplemental draft in late August, served a five-game suspension to start the season and has spent most of his time watching veterans Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer in practice.
“I’m coming along well,” Pryor said. “I’m really getting used to the speed of the game from the defensive perspective of getting in on me. It’s getting better. I can’t really complain. I just got to wait.”
That doesn’t mean Pryor can’t spend his time gleaning information from three veterans, as well as offensive coordinator Al Saunders and Jackson.
Pryor finally is at the point where he feels comfortable with the offense, and he is ready to put into action the things he has learned the past four months or so.
“I can say the plays and I got everything down,” Pryor said. “I know the protections. It took me about two or three months. It was frustrating because I didn’t get to hit the ground running. It took me awhile to catch up because I didn’t start from Day One. But now, I’m ready to go.”
It’s unlikely that Pryor will play Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs or in the regular-season finale against the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 1. He has played one down so far, when he motioned from a wide receiver position to the quarterback on a fourth-and-one play.
Alas, he got called for a false-start penalty and hasn’t played again. For now, Pryor said he is eager to have an entire offseason so that he can get a chance to show Jackson, his teammates and Raiders fans what he can do once he gets a chance to play.
“I just can’t wait to start when everybody starts equal so I can have a chance to get some reps and get some plays in,” Pryor said. “That’s all I’m looking forward to, just playing. I want to show the city what I got and help the team as much as I can.”
NO SYMPATHY FROM CHIEFS
People are quick to point to injuries to Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, and others, as the reason the Raiders are 7-7 and long-shots to make the AFC Playoffs.
At least they had those players healthy for more than one game this season. The Chiefs lost starting tight end Tony Moeaki during training camp, starting safety Eric Berry in the regular-season opener, lead running back Jamaal Charles in the second game and quarterback Matt Cassel more than a month ago.
“It definitely hurts but everybody loses people in the NFL,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday in a conference call. “That’s part of the business we’re in. We have to overcome, and you try to overcome, the best that you can.”
The Chiefs also are dealing with a quarterback change for the second time this season, the recent firing of coach Todd Haley and an 0-3 start.
Yet, through it all, the Chiefs are very much alive in terms of the playoffs picture. Crennel said the Chiefs can’t look past the Raiders.
“Strange things happen in the NFL, particularly this year, because of the offseason and training camp, the way it was set up,” Crennel said. “We’re just fortunate to be in the position we’re in. If it turns out that we can make it, we would love that. But we can’t look beyond the Raider game because if we don’t do anything in that one, then it doesn’t make any difference.”
AMAZING … BUT TRUE
Darrius Heyward-Bey is within reach of his first 1,000-yard season. Perhaps more surprising, the Raiders haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss rolled for 1,005 in 2005.
Heyward-Bey is at 775 yards through 14 games. He needs to average 112.5 yards in Oakland’s final two games to reach the magical mark for the first time in his three-year NFL career.
PALMER GETS ANOTHER SHOT AT CHIEFS
Palmer’s first game as a Raider came in relief of Boller against the Chiefs on Oct. 23. The Raiders trailed 21-0 at that point and ended up losing 28-0.
Palmer played despite arriving five days earlier and knowing about 10 percent of the playbook, by his estimation. The results were predictable. Palmer was intercepted three times and looked out of synch.
Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers intercepted Palmer and returned it for a touchdown. He said Wednesday that Palmer is a much differen player today.
“They look more polished,” Flowers said. “Carson Palmer had time to get his timing routes down with the receivers, you could see they’re really starting to jell as an offense and you can tell the chemistry is starting to come along. Rather than when Carson Palmer played the first time, he got in, it was like he was just trying to play backyard football.”
Palmer said playing that game won’t give him much of an edge, if any, come Saturday.
“I’m not taking much from that game,” Palmer said. “They’re a different team. We’re a different offense now. Personnel-wise, I guess, it helps a little bit, but they’re playing a little bit differently now, and we’re definitely playing a little bit differently. And it’s in their environment.”
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl