The moment Gus Bradley was announced as the Raiders’ new Defensive Coordinator, the thinking was the Raiders will be switching to a Cover-3. That’s what Bradley ran in Seattle when he was the DC for the Seahawks from 2009-12.
In those days, the Seahawks had one of the best defenses in the league, deploying the vaunted ‘Legion of Boom’. Bradley’s work running that defense landed him the head coaching gig with the Jaguars in 2013, where, for some reason, the defensive play took a nosedive.
Over three of his four seasons as Jaguars head coach, the defense was ranked among the worst in the league in both points allowed and yards allowed.
After Bradley was fired following the 2016 season, All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey had some less than stellar things to say bout how the defense was run under Bradley and DC Todd Walsh.
“Every week, we ran the same defense,” Ramsey said in an ESPN piece. “We never changed defenses. We never changed plays. What we were running on first down at the beginning of the season we were running on first down at the end of the season. What we were running on second down, third down, same. Nothing ever changed.”
This criticism followed him when he was hired by the Chargers to be the DC under Anthony Lynn in 2017. But under Bradley, the Chargers defense was among the best in the league, just as Seattle’s had been with him as DC.
For Bradley’s part, he said he learned a lot from being a Head Coach as opposed to just a Defensive Coordinator.
“When you’re a head coach you’re involved in many of the offensive
meetings. You’re sitting in with the offensive personnel, the offensive staff and you’re hearing how they gameplan, how they do it by formations and what formations they think best attack this style of defense,” Bradley said Tuesday in his Raiders introductory press conference. “So, I think in many ways it was beneficial, it did give me a different view of maybe how defenses are attacked, how offenses are attacking us.”
Naturally, the question is if Bradley’s approach has changed since his Seattle days, or even since his Jacksonville days. In particular, how flexible is he? And in turn, how predictable are his defenses? Is he still strictly Cover-3?
“I think the basis is a lot of Cover-3. But I think it’s evolved since Seattle,” Bradley said. “When we went to Jacksonville there was things we incorporated. Once we went to the Chargers too. So, I think it’s more multiple than maybe the Seattle days. But it really revolves around looking at the personnel that we have and putting guys in position to where they can make a lot of play. Positioning them where they have the ability to make plays. That’s the task that we’ll look at in the next month or so.”
There is some evidence of what Bradley speaks. As ‘Tape Don’t Lie’ co-host BD Williams points out here.
Week 12 vs the Bills
Bradley’s defense saw 7 Josh Allen pass attempts on 3rd down. Only 3 converted. Bradley called Cover 3 only once.
Cover 1: 4 times
Cover 6: once
Cover 4: once
Cover 3: once https://t.co/3X3VoTpLYX
— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) January 12, 2021
Josh Allen is a perfect litmus test for if Bradley has evolved because Allen is one of the bright young stars of the NFL with his combination of arm talent and mobility. It could portend how he will deploy the defense against the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, who the Raiders will be facing twice a season for the foreseeable future.