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For years, the Oakland Raiders have had head coaches with an offensive bent.
The likes of Hue Jackson, Jon Gruden, Lane Kiffin, Norv Turner and Bill Callahan all ran the Silver and Black show.
Now, for the first time in years, the Raiders have a head coach who came up through the ranks on defense – and it might mean a drastic change this season.
Though it was only an exhibition game, the Raiders held the Dallas Cowboys to just three points Monday night in a 3-0 loss in Oakland. Now, as they prepare for the second exhibition game Friday night at Arizona, defensive players on the Raiders roster say they’re encouraged by the way Allen focuses on their unit, and the way new defensive coordinator Justin Tarver is putting things together.
A year after the Raiders were 29th in total defense in the NFL, allowing 382.5 yards per game, 27th against the run, 27th against the pass and allowed 433 points, fifth most in the league – while also ranking as the most-penalized team – defensive players say it’s a whole new ballgame.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour raised a few eyebrows recently when he said he believes Oakland can be a top five defensive team this year, but he stands by his assessment.
“Everyone knows the type of players that we have here,” Seymour told CBSSports.com. “But now I feel like the coaches are putting us in the right position.”
Allen was the defensive coordinator in Denver in 2011 and the Broncos improved markedly from 2010. Now that he’s taken over in Oakland, Allen, reports Eric Gilmore of CBSSports.com, has put together a defensive scheme that includes an aggressive approach, with blitzes, multiple schemes and fronts and changing coverages. It’s a far different approach than the one the Raiders have used for decades under late owner Al Davis, who preferred a four-man rush, few blitzes and man-to-man coverage.
“It’s not going to be as predictable,” said safety Mike Mitchell. “You’re not going to know who’s (blitzing) or what we’re doing. I love it.”
Against Dallas, the Raiders unveiled their defense for the first time in a game, and Allen for the most part was pleased by what he saw.
“They were attacking, they were aggressive, and that’s what we’re going to be,” Allen told reporters. “And so I thought J.T. (Tarver) did a nice job of calling the game.”
To defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, the whole culture has changed because of Allen, who’s earned raves from his players since being hired by new general manager Reggie McKenzie.
“It’s just attention to detail, the little things,” Kelly told Gilmore. “I mean, D.A. (Allen), he harps on it all day long. The mental errors on the practice field, even in a game, they were down. We cut down on the mental errors and the penalties, people are going to have a hard time dealing with us.”
Kelly said that what he saw in the exhibition opener has him very encouraged that things are headed in the right direction.
“It’s the first time in nine years we ever looked that good tackling in the first game of the preseason,” he told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “So whatever they’re doing must be working.”