Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time to Shake Up the Lines,

I’ve ranted and railed about the Raiders lacking any cohesive vision either on the Defense for years now. I’ve come up with my solutions, my long shot scenarios for how this unit is just a player or two away from being something special. I have argued for giving a much maligned DC the room to do what he was brought in for.

Then I read something like this:

“Tommy Kelly. is one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He’s an outstanding player…Kelly plays everywhere. He’s a little bit like Howie Long in that Howie Long was a guy that they would move along on the front. They would take Howie and mismatch him against whoever they thought the other team’s worst lineman was. There is a little bit of that with Tommy Kelly, too - find a guy that they want to go after and stick him there because he does have the flexibility to play outside and inside. He can pretty much play across the board. He can do everything. Play the run, rush the passer, he’s good in pursuit. He’s a very physical player. He’s pretty good.”

That quote is attributed to none other than Bill Bellichick. Now when Bill stated this is a mystery to me, I got this off another message board, and it could be a complete fabrication. As we all know, commenting about Tommy Kelly like this would likely constitute tampering (since the Raiders have held his rights since day 1).

But it got me to thinking. What the hell has happened to creativity when it comes to the Raiders defense?

I cut my teeth as a Raider fan watching Howie Long. Collected his trading cards, had his poster on my wall. Watching him implode in his final game as a Raider at Rich stadium, enduring the jeers of the Bills fans surrounding me…it hurt, yeah I said it, it hurt me bad.

But the thing about Long was he was used as a weapon. His trading cards listed him as a DT/DE, he never lined up in the same spot from game to game. Got a rookie guard, Howie will kill him, RT is an injury replacement, well now he has Long to deal with.

Now, Long had the great Greg Townsend at DE to compliment him, and a litany of good to great DT’s, who could also move around in complimentary roles. Something this Raider team lacks… or does it.

Here is the thing. Every game the Raiders come out with the same 4 guys up front, in the exact same position. I know some will blame Ryan, but this has been going on almost a decade. This past season (when everyone was healthy) you could read left to right, Burgess, Warren, Kelly, Richardson as your starting 4.

No match-up games were played, hell, barely a stunt was called. Here are our four, they are going to beat your five. Sure Burgess would line up over LT once in a blue moon, and when Sands came in, Warren might line up over LG. But there is no mystery to what the Raiders are going to do.

Thing is, this Raider front 4 is capable of more. And it all starts with the guy that Warren Sapp (I know, I put no stock into what he says either) called the best 3 technique in the league. The guy that Belichick reported called “one of the best defensive linemen in the league”. That right, Mr. Overpaid, Tommy Kelly.

Kelly has the Athletic ability to line up at either end, and the physical presence to line up at either tackle. It is time to start using this to create mismatches. No more of this “My gun is bigger than yours” bullshit. Time to try a little funny business.
It is time for Kelly to start earning that huge paycheck. Got a rookie guard, he should have Kelly lined up over him. Got a injury replacement at RT, let Kelly have his way with him.

Now I am not saying that Kelly is by any means Long’s equal. And Burgess, Warren and Richardson, are by no means Townsend, Davis and McGlockton. But there is enough talent there to get more done than what has been to date.

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