Raiders now blitzing like never before

October 21, 2011, 1:26 am
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ALAMEDA -- The Silver and Black elephant in the room is starting to get noticed. And, some might say, poked.There's no doubt the late Al Davis eschewed blitzing. He wanted straight man-to-man defense with his cornerbacks playing bump-and-run and the front seven dominating enough to apply pressure without any gadget plays.Even when blitzing worked, as it did with aplomb two years ago against Philadelphia and a confounded Donovan McNabb, there were rumblings that not everyone in the building was happy. Imagine the reaction if it had backfired.

Even departed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha questioned the Raiders' defensive scheme ... after signing a big-money deal to play man defense.Blitzing was an anomaly, a crutch, of sorts, was the thinking upstairs. And while the team might install such packages during a game week, rarely did it ever surface in a game.That philosophy, though, has changed within the past two weeks, it seems.Consider this from STATS LLC: including run plays, the Raiders blitzed an average of 8 12 times per game through their first four games this season. In their last two games, against Houston and Cleveland, the Raiders blitzed an average of 28 12 times per game.Shocking, right? As if the numbers didn't speak for themselves, first-year coach Hue Jackson added some spice."I think it's been pretty vanilla here in the past," Jackson said, "and I think (opponents) have kind of known how to attack us."Some might see that as a shot at the old Xs and Os mantra in Silver and Blackdom. Others might see it as a long-awaited evolution.Just win by any scheme necessary, baby?"We're definitely more colorful now that we're not as vanilla, we're not as predictable as we've been in years past," cornerback Stanford Routt said. "That's the main thing, try to confuse the quarterback and get him to make decisions and reads in the actual play, rather than already being able to make a pre-snap read and determination where he wants to go with the ball."Football is a game of chess not checkers. Anytime you're out there being predictable or playing into the other team's hands, as far as what they can expect from you, you're not putting yourself in the best chance to win the game. Any time you can go and throw a wrinkle in there, obviously you want to do that. Because if I know what you're going to do before you do it, your chances to win are not that good. Obviously it's a good thing to do."It might not be fair to say previous defensive coordinators were hamstrung by the Davis Doctrine. And it might be uncouth or even blasphemous to say there is a certain freedom in defensive play-calling now.So what about that Silver and Black elephant again? Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is center ring with it, flipping it some peanuts."We have a very aggressive d-coordinator," safety Mike Mitchell said. "He likes to get after it and apply pressure. When you look at the way our team is built, we have the athletes to play so much man and we have the biggest, fastest linebackers in the league, so why not send them? It puts pressure on the quarterback and we have the athletes to cover. I think it goes hand in hand."For years, teams knew how to scout the Raiders because they would play a certain base defense and little else. And while it drew derision in many corners in recent years, it also drew praise for sticking to the brashness of the whole, 'You know what we run, so beat us.'Now?"Last week you had Colt McCoy come up to us and say, 'Man, I thought you guys were going to play more man,'" Mitchell said of the Browns' signal caller. "It's good when the quarterback says that because we are known for so much man coverage. But when we can throw wrinkles with some of our fire zone and other things, it gives them different looks."They're not going to know what to expect. I honestly, truly believe we have the best athletes in the league. We have the capability to do everything our d-coordinator wants us to do. As long as we continue to mix up our looks, we'll give quarterbacks a lot of trouble."On the third play of the Cleveland game, safety Matt Giordano picked up the first sack of his seven-year career when he dropped McCoy for a 10-yard loss on third-and-nine. On a blitz."I look forward to it, whenever I get the chance to blitz," Giordano said. "I love blitzing."Especially when you have the freedom to do so, and it works.

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