Silver and Black Stock Watch: Defensive Line

Projected Starters: Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston

If your only working knowledge of the NFL is related to fantasy football then you’d think the emergence of Darren McFadden was the biggest reason why the Raiders ran through the AFC West last season. But ask any member of Raider Nation and they’ll tell you Run DMC’s spectacular season was only part of the Raider resurgence. Perhaps the biggest reason why the Silver and Black got back on track was the stellar play of the defensive line.

In recent years the D-line has been an embarrassment. Rarely getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Always getting blown off the line and manhandled against the run. The D-line has been downright depressing.

In 2010, the D-line was straight dominant.

Seymour, Kelly, Shaughnessy and the rookie stud Houston all registered 5 or more sacks helping to bring some of that Raider swagger back.

For his performance in 2010 Seymour was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster and though injury prevented the trip it was a well deserved honor. Many laughed at Al Davis for parting with a first round pick for Seymour. Well, not too many are laughing now. Not only did Seymour create constant havoc on Sundays, as it turns out parting with a first round pick in a lockout doomed draft isn’t such a bad thing.

While Seymour was the anchor, it was the performance of Tommy Kelly that truly made waves. He’s always been a gifted athlete but living up to that $50-million contract seemed impossible for TK. With Seymour by his side, Kelly was an unblockable beast that dominated the line of scrimmage. So dominant in fact that most thought he deserved the trip to Hawaii over Seymour.

With the two vets in the middle of the line, it was the youngsters on the edge that made this unit so special.

Jerry McDonald sees a Pro Bowl in the near future for Matt Shaughnessy and it’s hard to disagree with the way he’s played since first coming into the league. The former Wisconsin Badger is a natural athlete with great instincts. He came into the league as a persistent pass rusher and is slowly developing into a steady run stopper. Simply put there isn’t too much Shaughnessy can’t do on the field.

Lamarr Houston was born to be a Raider. Aside from the fact he was birthed in the Bay, Houston has that old school Raider persona. He plays with attitude, aggression and a reckless abandon. It was common place to see the former Longhorn mixing it up with opposing O-linemen after throwing their QB to the ground with deadly intentions.

All that praise aside, this unit still couldn’t find a consistent approach to stopping the run. They’d stuff opposing runners for long stretches and then give up a big run that would open the flood gates. Partly due to that draw it up in the dirt scheme, partly due to a lack of focus, the run defense must improve in order for this team to take the next step.

Stock Rating for the Defensive Line: B+

Backups: Desmond Bryant, John Henderson, Jarvis Moss

One of the biggest injuries the Raiders sustained last season was losing John Henderson early in the season. Henderson was a big help (pun intended) in stopping he run. The veteran DT might not be playing at a Pro Bowl level any longer but as part of the rotation he makes it so opposing blockers are never given a rest.

Desmond Bryant was a surprise coming out of camp two years ago. The UFA from Harvard has a motor and competitive edge that endears him to Raider Nation. While he still isn’t a viable option for every down, Bryant is a key contributor in the D-line rotation.

Jarvis Moss was a late season signing brought in to fill a roster spot but wound up finding field time. He’s never going to live up to his draft status but at 6’7” and still only 26-years-old he’s certainly going to keep getting chances in the NFL.

Stock Rating for the Second Unit: C

Potential Draftees: Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss

Yes, there are plenty of other players out there for the Raiders to be considering in the draft. Powe isn’t the only defensive lineman worth talking about but to me he’s exactly the guy this team needs.

In recent years the Raiders have passed on picking a true nose tackle and for good reason, they’re not a 3-4 team. But you can’t tell me that a big body in the middle of the line isn’t exactly what this run defense badly needs.

Two years ago the football world wondered how Al Davis could pass on Michael Crabtree for Darrius Heyward-Bey. Instead, I was wondering how AD could pass on B.J. Raji for DHB.

Powe is a mobile big man with bright future. He took the long route to Ole Miss but earned his keep every step of the way. That speaks to his dedication. Feel good story aside, you can’t coach size. Standing 6’2” and weighing 333 pounds, Powe is a force. Most likely the Raiders would have to burn their first pick (#48 overall) if they want to secure his services. Davis loves to have speed on the edges but it’s time this team gets a run stuffer in the middle.

Just imagine being able to move Seymour all over the line while swapping Kelly for Powe and mixing in Big John every so often. I smell…fear.

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Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured B.J. Raji Darren McFadden Darrius Heyward-Bey Desmond Bryant Jarvis Moss Jerrell Powe John Henderson Lamarr Houston Matt Shaughnessy Michael Crabtree Richard Seymour Tommy Kelly

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