If they can stay healthy, the Oakland Raiders' defensive line will cause opposing offenses difficulty. Because of the talent and depth that exists at the position, the Raiders are going to have some tough decisions to make when the final roster is announced. Depending of their performances during training camp and preseason games, a few defensive tackles can play themselves in or out of a job.
Two veteran and experienced players lead the Raiders' defensive line and both are penciled in as the starters. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour have been stalwarts on the Raider defensive line for years. Seymour came to Oakland in a trade from the New England Patriots in 2009. The three time Super Bowl champion has started 44 games in those three seasons for the Raiders, making 15.5 sacks and 89 tackles.
“I wouldn’t say that it would be any different than what it’s been in the past,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of Seymour. “I would expect good things out of him. He’s been a Pro Bowl player, and I would expect that to continue to be the case, and I’m expecting him to make big plays when we need him to make big plays.”
Next to Seymour will be nine year veteran Tommy Kelly. The pair of Seymour and Kelly gives the Raiders one of the better defensive tackle pairings in football. Because of their ability, skills, and experience they can create headaches in both the running and passing game. Kelly came to the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State. He ascended up the depth chart eventually making three starts his rookie season and became a full time starter the next season. He has been very productive the last two seasons, racking up seven sacks in 2010 and seven and a half last season. Both Kelly and Seymour help the Raiders because of their versatility to slide out and play defensive end. That ability to play multiple positions gives defensive coordinator Jason Tarver options.
Another defensive lineman with versatility is Desmond Bryant, who signed his contract tender to remain with the team for the 2012 season in early June. Bryant gives the Raiders depth at both defensive tackle spots and defensive end. The undrafted free agent out of Harvard played in all 16 games last season, making 10 starts. He contributed five sacks, a forced fumble, and 30 tackles. Bryant will be the guy the Raiders call on to spell both Kelly and Seymour because of his ability to make plays in the backfield.
With Seymour, who is 32 years old, and Kelly, who is 31 years old, still productive but on the wrong side of 30 for the NFL, the Raiders have brought in some young talented players to develop. During the 2012 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected Christo Bilukidi in the sixth round. Known as a versatile defensive tackle that could also play end, Bilukidi fits the mold of a Raiders defensive tackle. The 6-4.5, 295 pound defensive tackle led Georgia State with 10 career sacks, five coming in 2010 and five coming in 2011. He also has three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his career. With a good training camp and solid showing during the preseason, Bilukidi has a chance to make the final roster.
Battling against Bilukidi for a spot of the final roster, will be two defensive tackles who were members of the practice squad last season. Travis Ivey is a mountain of a man at 6-4, 340 pounds. With his size and skills, he is the only true nose tackle on the Raiders roster. Defensively, if the Raiders want to run some 3-4 sets, they may need a big space eater like Ivey in the middle. The other defensive tackle competing for a spot is Jamie Cumbie. At 6-7, 290 pounds, Cumbie also has the size to play the position. He was a member of the practice squad last season and may find himself a candidate against this year. Undrafted rookie free agent Dominique Hamilton out of Missouri will also be competing for a defensive tackle job.
Ivey, Cumbie, and Hamilton all need to showcase their skill sets during training camp and preseason games to make the roster. Ivey has the best chance because of his size and ability to play nose tackle. Because he is a rookie, Hamiliton has his work cut out for him to make the team, but is a practice squad candidate along with Cumbie. With the amount of talent, experience, and production, the Raiders defensive tackle position is solid. The blend of veteran and young players should benefit the training camp competition that will eventually yield the players who will make the Raiders final roster.
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