If Jack Del Rio indeed is on his way to being the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders, one player sure to benefit is Khalil Mack. Another is Sio Moore.
After all, who better to help the Raiders get the most out of their two talented young linebackers than Del Rio, an experienced defensive coordinator, defensive assistant and head coach who played 11 seasons in the NFL as a linebacker, went to the Pro Bowl and has a passion for defense?
As defensive coordinator of the Broncos in 2013, Del Rio’s defensive group was No. 3 in the NFL in total defense, behind only the Seahawks and Lions. The Broncos also led the NFL in three-and-outs. The Broncos had 41 sacks, 12th best in the league.
Also, under Del Rio’s guidance, the Broncos’ defense was a constantly evolving unit. Del Rio has shown an ability to adapt, to change and use the tools he’s given to his best advantage. Over the course of his coaching career – especially at stops in Carolina, Jacksonville and Denver – his defensive players have praised his work.
At Denver, working in conjunction with defensive-minded head coach John Fox (fired this week), Del Rio, 51, instituted a defensive scheme that uses multiple fronts, lots of disguised coverages and changing approaches depending on the week and the opponent.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who often faced Del Rio’s defenses in Jacksonville, said Del Rio evolved in Denver to create something more dynamic.
“This is his defense here,” Manning told the Denver Post. “I think what Jack’s doing here with the defense is kind of unique. I think he’s kind of implemented some of the the … it’s kind of his stuff, I think. It doesn’t look like Jacksonville, I’ll say that.”
Del Rio has coached both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, and in Denver the front is constantly shifting. So, he’s comfortable with both.
It’s possible that under Del Rio, a 3-4 scheme could give Oakland a newer, fresher, more attacking look. Mack and Moore have shown their ability to move and pressure the quarterback. This could give them more freedom.
After all, getting the most out of Mack – one of the NFL’s best rookies in 2014 – could be the foundation of future defensive success.
Former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said one of Del Rio’s strength is teaching and getting his players to know what he wants – and then turning them loose to make decisions and plays.
“That’s one of the best things about him,” Bailey told the Post in 2012. “He understands we’re not robots. He has a way that he wants things done. But he’ll tell you: ‘You know what I want. You make it happen.’ ”
At Jacksonville, some linebackers praised their head coach for his work with them – an unusual thing for a head coach.
One of the things that makes the Raiders an attractive team for a new head coach is the foundation of Mack on defense and quarterback Derek Carr on offense. As Conor Orr of NFL.com wrote Wednesday, how Del Rio chooses to develop and use them will be interesting to watch.
Wrote Orr: “Del Rio’s choice in coordinators should give us more insight into how he plans to feature Carr and Mack.”