Scott Bair's Raiders Breakdown: Defensive Line
The Raiders completely overhauled the defensive tackle position in the offseason in the name of salary cap savings. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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 24, with the first practice day scheduled for July 26. This afternoon, Scott focuses on the defensive tackles.
Who they have: Pat Sims, Vance Walker, Stacy McGee, Johnny Jones, Christo Bilukidi, Kurt Taufa’asau
Who they lost: Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant
Looking back: The interior line was loaded with high-priced talent. Seymour, Bryant and Kelly were focal points of the 2012 defense, and fared fairly well against the run. Bryant proved adept against the pass, recording four sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 20 hurries last season. Seymour was strong against the run during the first nine weeks, before he sustained a season-ending hamstring tear. Kelly provided another veteran presence in the starting lineup, with less effectiveness than years past. The three-man rotation was a strong suit of an average defense that was decent in yards allowed yet poor in points allowed.
Overall outlook: The Raiders completely overhauled this position group in the name of salary cap savings. Seymour played last season under the franchise tag and couldn’t be retained at a high price. The Raiders allowed Kelly to sign with New England and let Bryant sign with Cleveland for big money (5 years, $34 million). A new crop has been planted, with Sims and Walker penciled in to the starting lineup. Sims is known as a solid run stuffer without much of a pass rush, but Walker is more of a complete player. He had four sacks and zero missed tackles for the Falcons last season, before joining the Raiders on a 1-year, $2 million contract. Those players will be counted on heavily, because there is little depth behind them.
Camp competition: The Raiders will spend the preseason figuring out their tackle rotation. Sims should play nose tackle with Walker next to him, and the Raiders are hoping McGee can catch on fast after being drafted in the sixth round. Bilukudi played 249 snaps last season and was adequate against the run, but he needs to show progress to be a solid replacement. Jones and Taufa'asau will also compete for a roster spot.