Listening to Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden results in being hit with the full gamut. From coach speak, to clichés and then to technical terminology, you go from seemingly knowing everything to absolutely nothing about the game. It’s charisma and football knowledge packed into a Chucky package.
While much was made of Gruden’s presser — namely his thoughts on analytics — at last week’s NFL combine, his sit-down interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio was fantastic.
Gruden drops dimes and jewels that provide excellent insight on what the 2018 Oakland Raiders will look like. While he did not go into specifics, it was a window on how he sees the Raiders roster shaping up this offseason.
When broached with the topic of NFL defenses evolving to smaller and faster defenders, Gruden went old school.
“I would not mind having the ability to slam it at you. If we’re fortunate enough to get Marshawn Lynch back as our running back, we have to do a better job servicing him,” Gruden said. “We need a blocking tight end and a fullback. If he is going to be the great Marshawn Lynch that we remember in Seattle, remember, they had a blocking tight end. Not Jimmy Graham, Zach Miller. Moreover, a great fullback. Michael Robinson, he would undress you in the hole, he would smoke you. If they get smaller, maybe we have to get bigger.”
That is key insight.
Gruden’s history caters to in-line blocker as the starter tight end position. Rickey Dudley is the lone exception as he was a receiver at the position. Could Jared Cook, a receiver by trade, fall to backup or outright jettisoned?
As for the fullback spot, Jamize Olawale provides thump as a blocker, but not in the mold of Robinson or Jon Ritchie, a steamroller who flourished under Gruden during the coach’s first go-around with Oakland. Is Olawale — a receiver converted to FB — slated to be replaced by a true and trident bulldozer of a blocker?
Gruden went on to explain why NFL teams are fielding more compact and athletic defenders.
“The common thing I see in football now is they’re stretching the field horizontally, like Andy Reid in Kansas City, and just when you take that into account, they stretch you vertically,” Gruden said. “It’s that stretching of a defense that’s forcing them to get quicker and faster and more specialized to compete.”
Does that sound like an outdated coach? One where the game has passed them by?
Did not think so.
More from Gruden:
— He went on to discuss defenses further, namely how the Tampa 2 scheme is all but gone.
“It’s a single-safety defense now. The run threat of the quarterback forces you to get a safety in the box,” Gruden said. “You can’t play a split safety defense on first and second down against Cam Newton and some of these guys. They will wear you out running the football. You don’t have enough gaps accounted for.”
— Would the Raiders run a 4-2-5 formation instead of the traditional 4-3 or 3-4? That is up to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. However, listening to Gruden, you get a sense he is well aware of what the league is deploying.
“You’re seeing dime defenses, six defensive backs — three safeties at times,” Gruden said. “There’s going to be different coverages that you talk about: 1 Plug, there’s a coverage 3 Jade, nasty coverage. A combination of man and zone — tricky. Seattle and the Cover 3 they play different versions. The Tampa 2 and split safety coverages of years ago, now there’s 3 Deep, man-zone mixture coverages and then all the fire zones are 3 Deep, 3 Under with 5-man rush so you have to deal with them as well.”