Raiders new-look defense tries to get on same page 

NAPA — The Raiders probably should wear name tags in the defensive huddle in training camp.

With nine projected starters coming from outside the organization, getting on the same page is the top priority this summer.

Coach Dennis Allen and coordinator Jason Tarver are placing a premium on communication to make sure that when the season starts everybody is lined up in the proper place and sticking to their roles to avoid the defensive breakdowns that too often doomed the Raiders a year ago.

At the center of it all is middle linebacker Nick Roach. The Raiders signed Roach as a free agent from Chicago to replace disappointing former first-round pick Rolando McClain, whose deficiencies were often at the center of Oakland's defensive struggles.

"That dude is brilliant," safety Tyvon Branch said of the Raiders' new defensive signal-caller. "He picks up everything quick. There's no curveballs with that guy. He gets everything the first time around."

It's not an easy job considering the varied backgrounds of this group of defenders. Some are coming from teams that played three-man fronts while others are more used to the four-man defensive lines the Raiders typically use. Some are from teams that played more passive zones while others are accustomed to defenses that blitz more often.

So along with learning a new defense, the Raiders' players need to learn about their new teammates since Branch and defensive end Lamarr Houston are the only starters who played together last year.

"It's crazy. That's just the game now," said reserve defensive end Andre Carter, who is one of the few returning players on this defense. "It will be about communication and gelling."

Carter said getting to that point takes constant work from the meeting room to the practice field and even the lunch room.

Allen said he's seen the results from the focus on communication through the first week of camp even if he knows there will always be some breakdowns no matter how familiar a team is.

"The positive thing is, they understand the importance of it, they want to be good, and they're working extremely hard to get that done," he said.

NOTE: The Raiders signed DT Myles Wade, who has spent time previously with Seattle and Tampa Bay.

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