Raiders to keep 4-3 base defense, but new talent offers 'flexibility'

Raiders to keep 4-3 base defense, but new talent offers 'flexibility'
March 25, 2014, 8:45 am
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Dennis Allen on LaMarr Woodley; "I think he can be a solid 270 pounds and play well with his hand down.” (AP)

Programming note: Raiders Insider Scott Bair will hold a live chat from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, FL. today at 11 a.m. 

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Raiders acquired free-agent edge rusher LaMarr Woodley, best known as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. They signed Antonio Smith, who has done fine work as a 3-4 defensive end.

That does not mean the Raiders are not changing their stripes. They’ll maintain the 4-3 base front that Allen prefers. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has a 3-4 background and his influence is felt in certain alignments, Allen isn’t going to abandon his core defensive structure.

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“We’re not going to change what our base defense is,” Allen said Tuesday during an hour-long sit down at the NFL owners meetings. “Some of the things that we do have 3-4 principles, and I think adding a guy like Woodley allows you to be a bit more flexible in terms of what you do schematically, but we will still be based in the 4-3.”

Concern often accompanies players who switch schemes late in a career, but Allen believes his new-look defensive line fits in well.

“LaMarr played defensive end in college,” Allen said. “They always had to keep (his weight) down in Pittsburgh, and maybe that’s why he’s had some injury issues. I think he can be a solid 270 pounds and play well with his hand down.”

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There is similar belief that Smith can be effective as interior 4-3 pass rusher, especially in the nickel and dime package. 

Allen is excited about the options he's been afforded with these free agents in terms of impacting the quarterback, especially with an innovative four-man rush. 

Though the Raiders will add defensive line depth in free agency and the draft, the starting defensive front has come into focus. 

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Barring injury, the entire linebacker corps remains intact. The Raiders have Justin Tuck and Woodley at the end spots and Smith at defensive tackle. Allen will look fill vacant nose guard spot with second-year pro Stacy McGee, who can be a force in the starting base defense.

“We feel very comfortable with Stacy in there,” Allen said. “He’s big and strong and is a hard worker. You saw him improve as the season went on. That’s one of the reasons why we drafted him. We feel like he can be the anchor in the middle of the defense. We’re confident in him as a run player in our base defense.”

In line image of Antonio Smith provided by The Associated Press