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Raiders trying to find best fit for new defensive pieces

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Dan Parr
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Posted May 28, 2010 @ 10:12 a.m. ET
By Dan Parr

There was talk last year about the Raiders considering a shift to a 3-4 base defense, and speculation about a move to the 3-4 returned this offseason as the team made personnel changes on "D."

Word is Oakland still was operating out of a 4-3 base, at least in the OTA sessions open to the media, but many of the practices have been private, and the Raiders aren't a team that likes to share ideas in public.

Regardless of what system is employed, the Raiders' defense is going to have to become stingier for the team to be more competitive. While the inept offense took a beating during what will go down as the woeful JaMarcus Russell era, the defense was a culprit in the club's failure, too. It has finished 22nd or lower in each of the past three seasons.

The Raiders' defensive overhaul this offseason was focused on the front seven. It began with the release of two veterans, DE Greg Ellis and DT Gerard Warren, who were past their primes. Oakland traded for Browns OLB Kamerion Wimbley — who played in a 3-4 with Cleveland — and Jaguars DE Quentin Groves, who could benefit from a fresh start at outside 'backer in a 3-4 after disappointing as a 4-3 end. The club took MLB Rolando McClain with the eighth overall pick and traded MLB Kirk Morrison to Jacksonville. With Wimbley, Trevor Scott, and Groves patrolling the outside — while McClain and perhaps Ricky Brown are stationed inside — the Raiders appear to have the mix of linebackers in place to play the 3-4.

Richard Seymour has plenty of experience as a 3-4 defensive end, and second-round pick Lamarr Houston and veteran Tommy Kelly would also likely function well as ends in a "30" front.

The personnel to play nose tackle, which is a position of tremendous importance in the 3-4, is lacking, however. There's no obvious choice to pencil in. DTs Desmond Bryant, Ryan Boschetti and William Joseph could get a shot at playing the nose. Undrafted rookie Kellen Heard, who is listed at 355 pounds, is the heaviest D-tackle, which could make him a potential fit. Making a full-blown transition to a 3-4 will be difficult without a reliable space eater in the center of the defensive line, but the option is apparently under strong consideration.

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