Can Tommy Kelly Become an Elite Defensive Tackle?

tim spoonauerContributor IFebruary 23, 2009

The answer I would've given at the beginning of last season was absolutely not.

Tommy Kelly was at best an up and coming DT, but during this year even—though he didn't have the stats—I have to say he stepped up. Let us look at the facts.

Tommy Kelly injured his knee massively in that Titans game two years ago. Many, including myself, heard this and thought he wouldn't be good because of that injury in the future. He worked out on his upper body for the rest of that year. After getting that huge deal he was supposed to have a huge year, but I never expected it.

Kelly had a bad leg and after a year of getting the leg back under him, I believe that this will be his year. Almost every game I watched last year, if Kelly wasn't getting some type of  penetration then the runner already had a hundred yards, and it was likely only the second quarter.

Kelly's main job is to take on the double team and allow others to get the tackle, not get stats—even though that would be a positive but unrealistic. When it came to taking on the double and standing his ground, Kelly was great, and got into the backfield on occasion and made the tackle.

But what hasn't been looked at is how bad Terdell Sands and Gerrard Warren did. They had to take on one man and make an impact. Many times they were not only turned, but completely pushed out of the way, leading to giant hole and our linebackers being blocked by the fullback.

This shows that Kelly may be the DT we thought he could be. But he needs help from the OTHER DT. If the Raiders keep their first round pick, which I assume will happen, I suggest we take BJ Raji from Boston College. I understand then both our DT's will be paid mad money but it is better than being the joke of the league.

If we get Raji and he is able to take on that one linemen, Oakland could go from the laughing stock run defenses in the league to one of the good defenses.

Let's face it: if we don't address the run D problem by booting Sands and giving Kelly help, then the same thing will happen next year. But if we get a player to help Kelly, then Kelly will live up to his contact, and we will stop the run.

Marshall is a good defensive coordinator, if we get him the tools and let him do work. Then our two corners will have great years along with our front lines.

I believe Oakland's defense should be one of the top defenses in the league next year.