The Oakland Raiders Defense: The “Pagano” Effect

Scott Winter takes a look at the Oakland Raiders’ defense and the subsequent “effect” that coach Pagano has.

During last Saturday’s game the Oakland Raiders defense surprised fans with the amount of blitzes called. This has lead to some, namely Greg Papa on 95.7 The Game, to believe Assistant Head Coach John Pagano is now calling the defense. Many fans would be overjoyed with that prospect to be sure.

Tap the brakes on that for now.

Coach Pagano was not hired to replace defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. He was hired to reduce the communication errors from the back end, and help collaborate on the Raiders defensive scheme. He is a base 3-4 purist, with a heavy focus on blitzing, and both head coach Jack Del Rio, and Ken Norton are more conservative, 4-3 style coaches.

However, the Raiders defense has been evolving. Gone is the pure four man front. Lately the Raiders have shown many 3 man and 5 man fronts, and it varies on opponents and match ups; enter coach Pagano.

Coach Pagano has a solid resume when it comes to bringing heat from those particular schemes. He comes from the Wade Phillips school of coaching.

Now it was reported in the off season, by Joe Arrigo of and confirmed by yours truly, that Wade Phillips was actually offered the job that Pagano now holds.

So what does that mean?

It means the Raiders defense is evolving. It means there will be more deceptive pressure on opposing Quarterbacks. This is what I call the “Pagano” effect. In effect the Raiders defense will look different at times than what we have seen in the past. Raiders fans will hear the words “Big Nickel” and “Blitzing” a whole lot more in 2017. There are going to be times when the Raiders have three safeties on the field, and even more three man fronts.

Is Norton on the “Hot Seat”?

While this may come as a shock to many of you, as of right now, no. That does not mean that will not change. The Raiders organization still believes in Norton, however this is a make or break year for the man. The defense, while playing much better down the 2016 stretch, needs to improve.

Also, the reason the Raiders ran mainly blitz packages against the Dallas Cowboys, was to gain intelligence and data on Dak Prescott. The Raiders wanted to see, first hand, how the second year quarterback handled constant, and unexpected, pressure. They wanted to do this without giving away anything to the Cowboys in return. Its called strategy, the game within the game.

This is why Raiders fans should pump the breaks on coach Pagano taking over for coach Norton. Pagano was hired for a specific job, and that will certainly have an influence on the scheme.

However, if coach Pagano does his job, he will only ensure the success of coach Norton, which is exactly what the Raiders hired him for.

Remember, at the end of the day, this is Jack Del Rio’s defense.

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