Raiders defense should improve

NAPA, Calif. -- Here are five observations on the Oakland Raiders, based on their Aug. 10 practice:

1. On defense, the Raiders are making better use of their personnel. The best sight is seeing Warren Sapp back at defensive tackle when they line up in a 4-3. The experiment of making Sapp a 3-4 defensive end was silly. Sapp played his entire career as a quick defensive tackle who rushed through a gap and disrupted play. Putting him in a defense in which he had to wrestle a blocker didn't work. Plus, he ended up going against left tackles. "I'm allowed to use my feet and my quickness to get off the ball and get in somebody's backfield," Sapp said. "I'm really encouraged by it."

One of the reasons the Raiders' defense failed last year was because it was too reliant on the 3-4, and simply didn't have the right personnel to make it work. "A 3-4 defense is based on your linebackers and we didn't have exceptional linebackers," Sapp said. "You have to be honest about it. We suffered a little bit a year ago. People were dropping when they were supposed to be rushing and rushing when they were supposed to be dropping." Though the Raiders still lack big names at linebacker, they seem be taking a saner approach to defense.