NAPA – Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is an energetic guy. We all know that by now. His intensity’s been in the red since he was hired, and was on display early in the offseason program.
“I always pattern my coaching after how I played,” Norton said after Monday’s training camp practice at the Napa Valley Marriot. “I’m going to approach it that way – with a lot of energy, with a lot of enthusiasm and really enjoy what I do, and it’s contagious to my players.”
Norton isn’t just a rah-rah guy. He’s trying to install a successful, functional scheme heading into the regular season, and wants player effort and energy focused on mastering a scheme. He isn’t the type to throw the entire playbook at players and wish them luck.
He wants talent to be on display, with athletes playing physical and fast. That’s led to a deliberate unveiling of his scheme, as he focuses on players mastering what’s being taught.
“I just want them to know what they’re doing,” Norton said. “If you put too much out there, then you’re spreading yourself out. I’ve always known that you get really good at one thing and then you get really, really good at it, then you go to the next thing. It’s important that they understand that no one’s going to out play us, no one’s going to out effort us and no one’s going to out scheme us. You guys are going to know exactly where you are, and the connection between everybody on every play.”
If this mantra sounds familiar, it should. That’s how the Seattle Seahawks play defense. That where Norton comes from. He’s learned under Seattle head coach Pete Carroll since the pair was as USC, so those philosophies migrated south with him.
Norton wants his corners to play physical, his linebackers to be aggressive pursuing the ball, and his lineman to be a force at the point of attack.
He is flexible enough to know that scheme has to fit talent, and he’s only going to apply what works and what’s been mastered in practice.
“That’s what it’s all about,” middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “It’s about perfecting what we do before you move on to the next thing. I’ve been in defenses where we’re installing new plays every single night. You simply can’t get good at any of the things to put in without work and repetition.
“Here, we put a new play in, and we practice and practice and practice some more until we get really got at it. I think this is a system that works and should help players be at their best when it matters most.”