After the 2002 season, nothing fell as hard or fast for the Raiders as their run defense. What was the third ranked run D in the league ended up dead last in 2003. In fact, the Raiders run defense has ranked no higher than 22nd since. Rob Ryan and his boisterous persona distracted us a bit in 2006 by putting together a squad that allowed the least amount of yards off the pass in the NFL. But that aggression never transferred into an ability to stop the run.
Now the Raiders must take on the daunting task of starting the 2010 season against the two most dominant RB’s in the league; The Raiders travel to Tennessee to face Chris Johnson and the Titans in week one, then return to Oakland for their home opener, hosting Steven Jackson and the Rams in week two.
In fact, the Raiders 2010 schedule includes matchups against seven of the top 20 RBs in the NFL. If there was a time to rework the defensive line, it’s NOW.
The most recent pickup for the Raiders comes in the form of DT John Henderson. Henderson, a two time Pro Bowler, played his previous eight seasons in Jacksonville. Now depending on whom you’re reading, Henderson has a “mildly declining skillset”, or at 31 years old he’s on the “wrong side of 30.” And of course, the Raiders picked him out of the league’s “recycle bin.” Hey, that’s fine with me.
Both the Falcons and the Giants had been in hot pursuit of Henderson. The Giants tried to make a trade for him prior to the draft. The Raiders also attempted negotiations with Jacksonville, offering a 5th round pick, but Del Rio and company wanted a 4th. Del Rio overplayed his cards, get’s nothing, and Henderson’s a Raider for at least the upcoming season.
So what does Henderson bring to Oakland? At 6’7”, 335, he’s a mammoth of a guy. Expect him and Tommy Kelly to stuff the middle, closing down holes that invited RB’s. Expect his presence to motivate Kelly (as there’s some whispers that the Henderson signing could mean Kelly is on the block, but I don’t think that’s a viable theory.) Wrong side of 30 or not, the guy is an asset on the line.
Henderson isn’t going to light things up against the air game, but he’s had more than his share of deflected passes and 29 career INTs.
There are still some questions about the defensive scheme the Raiders will show in 2010. Speculation was that the Raiders were moving towards a 3-4 defense. While that has been categorically denied by Coach Cable, he is saying that we’ll be seeing something new. Reports from OTA’s haven’t given many clues to what’s coming.
What we do know is the Raiders have more talent and depth on defense in any year since 2002. The Titans had all but chalked up their home opener as a win. They’ve got to be a little less sure about that today.
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Written by Julie Schloss