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Raiders May be Switching to a 3-4 Defense

Signing of Kevin Burnett, a third free-agent linebacker, would give Oakland depth at the position and option of going to a 3-4 scheme in 2013

By Doug Williams
|  Monday, Mar 18, 2013  |  Updated 8:32 AM PDT
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Raiders May be Switching to a 3-4 Defense

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Kevin Burnett (56), who played for Miami the past two seasons, has been a linebacker in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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The Raiders’ signing of yet another linebacker seems to indicate the team may be ready to discard its 4-3 defense for the 3-4 in 2013.

The signing of former Dolphins, Chargers and Cowboys linebacker Kevin Burnett this past weekend – after picking up free agents Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiva earlier in the week – now gives the team four potential starters (with second-year man Miles Burris).

Oakland head coach Dennis Allen had success as the defensive coordinator at Denver running the 3-4, and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver also has a 3-4 background. Switching to the 3-4 this coming season might be a good fit for the team’s personnel.

“While the Raiders have made no indications that they will run a 3-4, coach Dennis Allen has said they could always move to a 3-4 based on additions to the front seven,” wrote Bill Williamson, the AFC West blogger for ESPN.com.

And Burnett, who played outside linebacker for the Dolphins in a 4-3 scheme the past two seasons, played in a 3-4 scheme with San Diego before going to Miami.

In meeting with Bay Area reporters Sunday, Burnett said a switch in schemes in Oakland is possible.

“I think they’ll change for the players,” Burnett told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “To answer your question real short, they’re going to change their defense to what we do best. It’s going to be a matter of us putting together the pieces one by one, so whatever we pick up is what we’ll run.”

Burnett, 30, had 109 tackles and 2½ sacks in 2012. In 2011, he had 106 tackles and 2½ sacks. His younger brother, Kaelin, also a linebacker, is on the Raiders roster and played six games in 2012.

As of now, the Raiders’ roster is thin in defensive linemen going into the draft in April, and thick with linebackers. That, of course, could change. Many draftniks predict the Raiders will take a defensive lineman with their No. 3 overall choice in the draft.

It’s likely the Raiders already are thinking of incorporating more of a 3-4 scheme in 2013 – thus the signing of three linebackers in the past week – but based on what Allen has said before, Oakland may want to weigh all its options before switching. Or, the Raiders may want to run varied sets.

After being hired last year, Allen said he was open to all ideas.

“We’ll see, after we go through free agency, after we go through the draft, which grouping gives us the best chance to be successful,” he told reporters. “I would expect that we’ll be very multiple in that regard.”

A year later, a new crop of linebackers – with free agency still in effect and the draft still ahead -- will give him that option.

 

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