Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 23, with the first practice day scheduled for July 25. In this installment, Scott focuses on defensive tackles.
Who they have: Antonio Smith, Justin Ellis, Ricky Lumpkin, Stacy McGee, Pat Sims, Tourell Troup
Who they lost: Vance Walker, Daniel Muir
Looking back: The Raiders were relatively strong through the interior line last year. Walker was a consistent presence, and provided some pass rush from the inside. McGee grew into a larger role and played well against the run. Sims played better as the year went on, including an A-plus effort against the San Diego Chargers that made coaches wish he could bring such effort every week. Muir was added later in the year and fare decently well on the inside. While defensive tackle play wasn’t always great, the team finished No. 13 against the run (107.9 ypg), the high point of a defense that was No. 22 with 363.7 yards allowed.
Overall outlook: The Raiders hoped to keep Walker, but the veteran left for a better deal in Kansas City. They were able to keep Sims, primarily known as a run defender, and add a savvy veteran in Smith. While he’s already 32, Smith has exceeded five sacks in each of the last three seasons. He is switching from a 3-4 end to a 4-3 tackle, but he’ll be right at home as an interior pass rusher in the nickel package. He’s been surprisingly healthy, missing just one game in the past eight seasons. The Raiders have high hopes for Ellie, a fourth-round pick who should add depth to a position of strength.
Camp competition: There won’t be much competition to make the 53-man roster – Smith, Sims, Ellis and McGee are virtually assured of spots – there should be a scramble for playing time in the base defense. It could end up as a situational rotation, with the Raiders loading up with size on rushing downs and saving Smith for passing situations even though Smith has been a solid run defender. Keeping guys fresh will be key, so most of these guys should play regularly.