Back in this past offseason as Reggie McKenzie cleaned house of large contracts from under performing players, most of which came on the Defensive side of the ball. I heard and read lots of doom and gloom predictions from the Raider Nation. Especially when it came to the Defense that would feature 10 new starters when it was all said and done. I don’t see any of those thoughts now, but lets take a look at that defense, who left, who replaced them and how they compare.
One of the players I remember hearing the most grief over letting go was Michael Huff. I don’t think anyone who was crying he left will admit it now, but they were. Well he has since been beat out by a rookie with the Ravens and has proven to be another 1st round draft bust of the past decade by Al Davis. In returns one of the great 1st round picks of Al Davis, Charles Woodson. Now I feel like Nostradamus as two years ago I removed the Huff name plate from my authentic white #24 jersey.
The interior of the Defense saw Richard Seymours’ contract expire and Tommy Kelly get cut. Seymour is essentially retired and Kelly signed with the Patriots. Kelly is now hurt, but before he did, he had 3 sacks and 22 tackles. Their replacements Vance Walker and Pat Simms only have 1 sack with 15 & 14 tackles respectively, but they give consistent effort and execution. They have helped this Raiders Defense rank in the top 10 in rushing thru their first 6 games for the first time since 2002.
Defensive End Desmond Bryant signed a lucrative free agent contract with Cleveland, which the cap strapped Raiders couldn’t come close to matching. Thru 6 games Desmond had 4 sacks and 20 tackles. His replacement Jason Hunter has 2 sacks and 15 tackles. Dollar for Dollar, Jason is giving the Raiders mega returns compared to what Desmond is giving Cleveland.
My early pick for the Raiders Defensive MVP is Middle Linebacker Nick Roach. Reggie gave Nick one of the rare multi-year deals he has handed out since being named GM. Roach signed a 4 year, $13M deal, with $5M guaranteed this offseason. He currently leads the Raiders in tackles with 45 and has 1 forced fumble, to go along with 1 QB sack. He is a colossal upgrade from the void that was in the middle before ( I don’t even want to mention his name, he’s dead to me! haha).
One of the bright spots from last year was Philip Wheeler. He too left via free agency, getting a big money deal from the Dolphins. Another deal the cap strapped Raiders couldn’t match. Philip so far has 43 tackles and half a QB sack. Reggie replaced him with Kevin Burnett, who signed a two deal. Kevin is having a great year so far. He is second on the team with 43 tackles. He also has 1 QB sack and 2 forced fumbles. I thought we would really miss Wheeler, but Kevin has actually proven to be an upgrade and deserves to be in the Raiders Defensive MVP conversation thru the first 6 games.
Last year at Corner Back Reggie swung and missed with Ron Bartel and Shawntae Spencer. So far this year he has swung and got a base hit with Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter. Unlike Ron and Shawntae, Mike and Tracy have been able to stay healthy and on the field. They have performed well enough to have the Raiders ranked 16th in passing yards per game allowed.
Reggie can be criticized for the Flynn signing. For taking a practice squad QB in the 4th round of this years NFL Draft. As well as the slow start of his other draft picks. He must also be praised for the way he has made over the Defense this year.