Vanilla ranks as the No. 1 flavor of ice cream in America, with almost 30 percent of consumers putting it at the top of their list.
But in football, if something gets that “vanilla” label, it’s time for a change.
Vanilla defense? Vanilla offense? No thanks.
So when Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan told reporters this week that Oakland’s defense had been pure vanilla in the 0-4 exhibition season, it was a signal to the Denver Broncos that they’ll get a whole new flavor to try in the regular-season opener on "Monday Night Football."
“The things you saw in the preseason were very vanilla and there was not a lot of playing time (for the starters), obviously,” Bresnahan told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “We’ve gotten the practice time, and we’re excited to get out there and show what we’ve got in Denver.”
Bresnahan wouldn’t reveal specifics about Oakland’s defensive scheme, but McDonald reported that indications are the Raiders may intend to mix pass coverages more often this season.
Ten of 11 defensive starters return for Oakland, with only cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha gone, meaning the Raiders could have more continuity and a better understanding of schemes from 2010 when their defense was inconsistent, up one game and down the next. Oakland last season had just 12 interceptions and allowed 29 TD passes, among the worst totals in the NFL, yet also had 47 sacks, tied for No. 2 in the league, McDonald reported.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain is hoping this year’s defense improves on those totals with another year together.
“It’s pretty much the same guys as last year, we’ve practiced together, so obviously we know what we’ve got,” McClain told reporters. “It’s about going out and proving ourself. That’s the task at hand.”
The Broncos’ offense will test Oakland with what they hope will be a more balanced attack this season under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Running back Willis McGahee, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher, has been brought in from Baltimore to share the load with incumbent Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for almost 800 yards in 2010. And quarterback Kyle Orton – who held off a challenge from Tim Tebow with a fine preseason – has proven he can put up big numbers, especially in concert with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Last season, Orton was 12-of-29 in his one start vs. Oakland, for 198 yards and two TDs. Lloyd caught just five passes in two games, but was primarily shadowed by Assomugha, now with the Eagles. Now, Oakland starting corners Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson will pick up the slack, as the Raiders prepare to scoop up some chocolate, rocky road or tutti frutti for the Broncos Monday night.
“Obviously we didn’t win our preseason games but we came out and played vanilla,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour told McDonald. But with a game plan specifically tailored for Denver, he says, “we feel pretty confident going into this game.”