ALAMEDA As offensive coordinator in Green Bay last year, Joe Philbin got a good look at the Raiders' defense leading up to their Week 14 meeting with the Packers.
Studying them again this past week, Philbin, now coach of the Miami Dolphins, saw the effects wrought in part by that 46-16 drubbing part of the Raiders' 1-4 finish that led to the exit of coach Hue Jackson and the ushering in of a defensive-minded regime.
"There's some similarities, but not a lot," Philbin said. "They still obviously have good players. I remember (defensive tackles) Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly and (end) Lamarr Houston and those guys. It's a good group up front, no question about it."
That defensive front is where it starts today if the Raiders want to avoid a rehashing of their last trip to Miami, where their tailspin began with a 34-14 loss Dec. 4. The Raiders allowed the Dolphins to run for 209 yards and sacked quarterback Matt Moore only once.
That defense tried to create pressure almost exclusively with its front four; now the Raiders are more willing to blitz with linebackers and defensive backs. And the quarterback they're after today, Ryan Tannehill, will be playing in just his second NFL game.
"I don't think it's any secret that we feel like the way you stop offenses in the (NFL) is to affect the quarterback," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "There's an awful lot of ways that you can do that, but obviously we want to get more pressure on the quarterback more so than we were able to get last week."
In their opener, the Raiders sacked Philip Rivers only once on the Chargers' first series in a 22-14 loss. It continued a pattern from last season, when the Raiders were 6-1 in games in which they had three or more sacks and just 2-7 when they had fewer than three.
One thing they did do well last week was defend the run. The Chargers, albeit without top running back Ryan Mathews, gained 32 yards on 20 carries a promising step for a defense that ranked 27th last year in rushing yards allowed per game (136.1) and last in yards per carry (5.1).
"They've changed the personnel a little bit at the linebacker position, but they still have the two pretty stout guys up the middle with Kelly and Seymour," said Miami's Reggie Bush, who ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in last year's game. "They look faster and they look stronger and they play well together on the defense, and they play well within their scheme."
Tannehill, a first-round draft pick from Texas A&M, had a rough debut against Houston that included three interceptions. But Philbin said he thought Tannehill's "decision making was actually pretty good," and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver added after watching Tannehill on film: "I don't think he really rattles."
Tannehill had a handful of passes batted at the line two resulting in interceptions something the Raiders noted in practice.
"I mean, that's one thing you've got to emphasize because, one, it's on film, and two, it obviously worked for the Texans," Tarver said. "One of the biggest ways you get interceptions in the NFL is tips and overthrows."
That doesn't mean the Raiders' linemen will spend the afternoon running at Tannehill with their hands waving in the air.
"But if I'm in the passing lane and see I can't get to the quarterback, yeah, you get your hands up," Kelly said. "That's what happened on the plays with Houston three steps, he's trying to get the ball out quick, and they got their hands up."
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who had 1 1/2 sacks and batted three passes, reportedly later said he picked up the Dolphins' snap count by watching the HBO show "Hard Knocks."
So after saying he watched the show "a little bit," Raiders defensive end Dave Tollefson was asked if he gleaned any knowledge he can carry to the field today.
"Listen, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm not dumb, either," Tollefson said. "And I really didn't see much on there."