INDIANAPOLIS -- It is time to activate the system.

Never mind a preseason where the Raiders' first defensive unit forced just one punt in four games.

When the Raiders open the regular season Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, they will do so with nine new starters and a new attitude.

"Fast and violent, baby, that's our mantra,'' strong safety Tyvon Branch said. "We're going to be fast and violent.''

The Raiders, 4-12 last season, have lost eight of their last nine opening games. Indianapolis, 11-5 and a wild card participant in 2012, was 7-1 at home.

Branch is the only starter on defense playing the same position he did in 2012, as right end Lamarr Houston switched sides after playing on the left side last year.

When Reggie McKenzie arrived as general manager, he did so with a mind to build a defense for a franchise which hasn't been good on that side of the ball for the last decade.

After a disappointing 2012 season, the massive personnel overhaul included three new defensive lineman (end Jason Hunter and tackles Vaughn Walker and Pat Sims), three new linebackers (Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach and either Sio Moore or Kaluka Maiava) two new starting cornerbacks (Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter) and a new free safety (Charles Woodson).


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The Raiders were not fast and violent in the preseason, giving up seven touchdowns, nine field goals, blocking a field goal and forcing one punt in 18 possessions not including a kneel-down in the first halves of four games.

Coach Dennis Allen attributed the struggles in part to being "vanilla'' in terms of scheme and playing for the sake of evaluation and development.

Or, as defensive coordinator Jason Tarver put it, "We showed what we wanted to show.''

That all changes when the Raiders flip the switch against Indianapolis, and coach Chuck Pagano isn't putting much stock in Oakland's preseason.

"It's difficult, but I think that first game makes it even more difficult after a preseason where guys don't show much,'' Pagano said by conference call. "There's a lot of uncertainty, but I don't think anyone has shown their hand yet.''

Allen and Tarver believe in mixing of man-to-man and zone coverages with a confusing array of blitzes that in theory won't show up as tendencies for which an offense can prepare.

Tarver calls it "activating'' players.

"(Being) activated means you're going forward at the snap of the ball,'' Tarver said. "Any one of the 11 players could be activated on the snap. The more (battles) you win, the more you get activated.''

The constant change puts a premium on communication so areas left open by activated players are covered.

"Things can change based on personnel, based on formation,'' Roach said. "Just making sure everybody knows where the other guy is going to be is going to be big.''

Luck, who earned a reputation for being wise beyond his years in leading the Colts to the playoffs while replacing Peyton Manning, played at Stanford when Tarver was a co-defensive coordinator.

"It's not like you're preparing for a whole new scheme, but there will be some unknowns and I have a lot of respect for coach Tarver,'' Luck said by conference call.

Luck passed for 4,374 yards with 23 touchdown passes, eight rushing touchdowns and 18 interceptions as a rookie. More impressive, Luck's 11 wins were the most by a rookie in NFL history and he had five game-winning drives for a team that gave up 30 more points than it scored.

With the Raiders not showing much of a natural pass rush in the preseason, and with Moore a game-time decision with a foot injury, Tarver's ability ``activate'' the right players will be crucial.

"We're going to have to do a good job in coverage, we're going to have to find ways to affect (Luck) with our rush, disguise a few looks and give him some problems,'' Allen said.

Woodson acknowledged some errors in the preseason but said, "it's not because of a lack of talent. We can get it done. I'm encouraged by what we have. I really feel like we can do big things.''

  • Tackle Jared Veldheer (torn triceps) on the reserved/injured designated for return list. Veldheer will have to miss at least six games. Tackle Matt McCants was signed from the practice squad.

    For more on the Raiders, visit the Inside the Oakland Raiders blog at ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders. Follow Jerry McDonald on Twitter at twitter.com/Jerrymcd.