5 questions for Raiders coach Dennis Allen

5 questions for Raiders coach Dennis Allen
January 30, 2012, 5:56 pm
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PROGRAMMING ALERT: The press conference to introduce new Raiders head coach Dennis Allen will be streamed live on CSNCalifornia.com and broadcast on Comcast SportsNet California at 12 p.m.

ALAMEDA -- Dennis Allen will be introduced to Raider Nation and, well, the entire football-watching nation in a media conference at 12 p.m. today.Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie selected the 39-year-old former Denver defensive coordinator to be the 18th different head coach in franchise history, the eighth since 2002, last week in Mobile, Ala., during Senior Bowl preparations.You have questions? We have questions. Following, then, five that are sure to be asked during the 39-year-old Allen's meet-and-greet1) Who's going to be your offensive coordinator?Logic dictates Allen should retain Al Saunders, the lone holdover from Hue Jackson's staff still under contract. But not because buying out Saunders would be wasted money; because it makes too much sense to keep him. Saunders, the lone Raiders assistant signed to a two-year contract last offseason by Al Davis with the lockout looming, prepared each week's gameplan and presented it to Jackson, who would then go over it and pick and choose plays off the sheet, like some high-powered menu, during games. Even with Jackson gone, the offensive "language" would be the same and there would be no need to overhaul what was among the league's most explosive before Darren McFadden sprained his right foot on Oct. 23 and did not play again. Imagine what Saunders could cook up with an entire offseason program with big-armed QB Carson Palmer and a healthy McFadden. Offensive continuity is key for a team that, really, was one defensive play away from winning the AFC West. And the defensive-minded Allen would have one less thing to worry about with the offense in Saunders' more-than-capable hands.2) What about your defensive coordinator?Two of the three names most often associated with the position have already been scratched from consideration -- Kansas City secondary coach Emmitt Smith, who mentored Allen in Atlanta, is staying put with the Chiefs and Jack Del Rio was hired by Denver to be the Broncos' D.C. to replace Allen. That leaves Denver linebackers coach Richard Smith, who has also been a defensive coordinator in Miami and Houston. But then might Allen, a head coach for the first time in his professional life, pull a Jackson, of sorts, and serve as his own D.C.?3) What kind of defense will you run?After last year's defensive collapse, there were more than a few rumblings that had not only Michael Huff switching from free safety to cornerback, but also the defense going from a 4-3 base alignment to a 3-4. One problem, though -- the Raiders don't have a run-stuffing big body to play nose tackle in such a scheme, and the Raiders have more talent in their down linemen to play a 4-3 than they do talented linebackers to install a quality 3-4. Still, it would give middle linebacker Rolando McClain a fresh start as an inside 'backer, at which he excelled in college at Alabama. Are you ready for a linebacker corps of Aaron Curry and Kamerion Wimbley on the outside, with McClain and Travis Goethel on the inside? But remember this -- last year at Denver, in his first season as a D.C., Allen employed a 4-3 defense.4) Was the Raiders' defense as bad as it looked last season?Allen never gameplanned for Oakland's defense -- that job went to Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy -- but surly Allen had to take a look at it and crinkle his nose, no? Even as the Raiders returned 10 of 11 starters, the defense was the Raiders' Achilles' heel under Chuck Bresnahan. Consider: Oakland had franchise defensive worsts in total yards allowed (6,201), passing yards (4,262), yards-per-carry (5.1) and TD passes (31) while the 433 points allowed were third-worst in franchise history. Need more? The Raiders and Tampa Bay became just the third and fourth teams in league history to allow at least 30 TD passes and 5.0 yards per carry. And the defense played a major part in the Raiders setting single-season records in penalties (163) and penalty yardage (1,358). Yeah, Allen has his work cut out for him.5) How did you get on the Raiders' radar?Surely, McKenzie was going to pilfer his old stomping grounds to find his next head coach in Green Bay's coaching ranks. The job was Winston Moss' to lose, right? But then McKenzie also interviewed former Miami interim coach Todd Bowles and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg. Allen seemingly came out of nowhere to score the second interview and nail the gig in Mobile. Rumblings at last week's Senior Bowl practices had New Orleans coach Sean Payton's endorsement sealing the deal. If so, what is the connection between McKenzie and Payton? In any event, McKenzie giving Allen a reported four-year deal shows how much he is investing in his "guy," as Al Davis would generally only give two-year deals. That, in and of itself, should give more than a glimpse into both men's visions for the Raiders' future.