For years and years, anyone who played the Oakland Raiders knew pretty much exactly what to expect from their defense: Very few blitzes and nothing, at any point, that would even come close to resembling a zone defense.
This could be, or could not be, one reason that the Raiders haven't had a defense ranked better than 18th in the league (by points allowed) since 2002, when they got to the Super Bowl and it sure looked like Tampa Bay knew what to expect. But what matters is right now, and extremely hands-on owner Al Davis, rest his soul, is no longer around, and thus, the Raiders will get to expand their defensive horizons.
Raiders safety Michael Huff told the Contra Costa Times that with new influences in charge, the Raiders switch this year to a more complex, adaptable, offense-confusing system. Said Huff:
"Nothing personal, but obviously, before with Al, rest in peace, he had his hands in all the defense. He had all his little things he liked to do. Now with D.A. [new head coach Dennis Allen] out there, we've got all kinds of blitzes, we've got 3-4, 4-3 fronts, just a lot of variety and different things going on. So I'm going to love it."
"Everybody knew [what defense the Raiders were in]. I'm in the middle of the field. I'm in the post, we're pretty much man-to-man on the outside. It was pretty simple. We really didn't blitz much. We let our front four get after them. That's how it was, so we dealt with it."
They did, as best they could, and looking back on it now, it's kind of amazing that the Raiders haven't been worse defensively. Take any team in the league, put their defensive playbook in a shredder and tell them they can only run a few easily-read schemes, and they'll start giving up numbers like they were Run TMC in Golden State. They've been operating in Oakland with a pretty high degree of difficulty.
So it will be interesting to see what they can do this year with the restrictions lifted. Opponents might have a much harder time dealing with the Raiders defense in 2012.