Ever since Reggie McKenzie took over the reins in Raiderland, the question has been; Will the Oakland Raiders switch to a 3-4 defense in 2012? That line of questioning eased a bit when McKenzie hired a defensive minded head coach that has worked mostly with a 4-3 scheme in Dennis Allen. But then, Allen turns around and hires a guy, in Jason Tarver, who has worked primarily in the 3-4 system. So that brought the debate back into the spotlight.
The biggest concern in switching from one scheme to the other is personnel. It would seem that in most positions, the Raiders could either fit well, or adapt well enough to play in either system. There is one position, though, that you can’t just throw someone in and have him transition into. It’s not that simple. That position is the nose tackle position. If you’re a regular, run of the mill defensive tackle in the NFL, the best way to train to be a nose tackle is at the dinner table. Weighing 315lbs. is considered light. You have to be the biggest, strongest, meanest guy on the line. It is the most physically demanding position on the field. Your job is to take on 2-3 offensive linemen on each and every play.
Travis Ivey, who came into the league with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2010, is the only true nose tackle on the Oakland Raider’s roster. He is a big, imposing figure at 6’4″ and 341lbs. A prototypical nose tackle. He has the size necessary to clog up the middle as is needed in a 3-4 system.
Dennis Allen has said that the Raiders will run a hybrid defense. He wants to be multi-faceted running both a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense. Unfortunately, that plan has taken a big hit thus far in training camp. The Maryland product, has come into camp out of shape.
Ivey has missed all 5 of the Oakland Raiders training camp practices due to “conditioning” issues. The coach was asked if the real issue was weight, or just conditioning.
“It’s a safety issue as much as it is anything else.” Said Allen after practice, “I want to make sure that he’s healthy, in shape, conditioned, and his weight’s where it needs to be so that if and when he does get out here to start practicing he doesn’t injure himself.”
Even if Ivey makes it onto the practice field eventually during training camp, the damage may already be done. To his career, and possibly to the Raiders plan to use the 3-4 defense in any prominent capacity in 2012. When Dennis Allen was pressed, and asked if Ivey was close, he hesitated for a second and simply answered “We’ll see.”