With only weeks left until the start of the 2009 season, I find myself very concerned about the defensive tackle position in the Raiders front seven.
Virtually nothing was done to put an end to the gaping holes where the run defense needs to be at its strongest. The Oakland brass are relying heavily on greatness from Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren, which is somewhat—I won't say completely—illogical.
They are also relying on Dwaine Board and John Marshall to work miracles with a group of ragtags.
However, even if Kelly and Warren play great...who is going to back them up when they get winded?
Are they going to put Terdell (the Turd) Sands in there, or do they go with an unproven rookie like Desmond Bryant?
I don't know, perhaps Ryan Boschetti and and William Joseph could shed some light on it for me, then again, perhaps not!
Where are we at now, like seven weeks to go before the start of live action that counts towards your record?
All I can say is that these six men mentioned above need to have a monster training camp and preseason to ease the minds of the Oakland fans.
Kelly, 6'6" 300 lbs, had a good year in 2008, racking up 4.5 sacks and adding 55 tackles.
A six-year pro from Mississippi State who Warren Sapp has total faith in, and Raider Nation has their doubts about.
While there are few doubts about his talent level, they are major doubts about him being out of position in the middle.
In order for Kelly to find more success this year, the players who will fill the void next to him must play amazingly well.
John Marshall knows how to use his guys to the best of their abilities, but the question is, who else in this position on this squad is able?
I thought Warren played very well last year...at times. The big man, 6'4" 330 lbs, had 39 tackles on the year with four sacks.
Gerard, the third overall pick in 2001, gets great penetration up field. The problem is while he's penetrating, there is a running back going right by him the other way. This is not a guy who will chase you down from behind.
If Oakland is going to find success against the run this year, it is of the utmost importance that Warren reads plays better before making his move up field.
He must stop overpersuing the play. This man has tremendous potential...but that has been being said since 2001.
This year, he must live up to the hype, and get stats more like Tommy Kelly last year. In other words, he must add about 15-20 tackles to last year's total.
Terdell Sands is a mammoth, 6'7" 335 lbs, who has played more like a giant sloth recently.
In 2006, Sands had 41 tackles and a sack. In '07 and '08 combined, he has only compiled 52 tackles and two sacks.
I read an article recently in which Terdell expressed his distaste with his own actions. He stated that he understood why Raiders' fans weren't impressed with him, and vowed to make a difference this year.
Word on the street is that he came into the OTAs and mini-camp in the best shape of his career. Reportedly 30 pounds lighter than last season.
He has impressed the coaches, and needs to continue his reshaping of his career.
In order for him to be a successful third man in the defensive tackle position, he needs to regain his 2006 form, or better it.
Joseph has been looking for a home since after the '06 season when he was released from the Giants rotating front seven scheme.
He may have found it in Oakland...or maybe not. He joined the Raiders halfway through the year last season. Joseph is another of those underachievers on the Oakland squad...seems there is a lot of those these days.
Joseph is entering his seventh year out of Miami (FL) University. He's played in 63 games, had 80 tackles, and seven sacks.
In order to make the roster, he is going to have to prove he is capable of decent backup numbers. The type that he put up in New York, like in '04 when he had 25 tackles and two sacks, or in '06 when he had 21 tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
He is a semi-feasible back up. One of those "maybe we could do better, but this is what we got" type of players.
If he plays to his potential, he could be a solid number four guy. If not, then with an injury or two Oakland could be in big trouble.
This is an unknown to Raiders fans and coaches alike. Only the Redskins really know what Boschetti has to offer to the Raiders.
He was a practice squad player, and occasionally an activated backup player during his Washington days. He has accumulated a total of 19 tackles in an unimpressive career.
Boschetti played some good ball in college, and was a multiple sport athlete in high school who won athlete of the year in his senior year in high school.
He played his college ball at UCLA, and is a California native.
It will be interesting for all of us to see what Boshetti has to offer, but I expect him to become a practice squad player for the Raiders as well. The good thing for him is that he gets to do it in his home state this time.
Dwaine Board is a man who has his work cut out for him when it comes to this defensive line. Board follows John Marshall from Seattle. He had success there, developing players like Rocky Bernard, Colin Cole, and Cory Redding.
Board brings a boatload of experience, and the hope is that players respond to him better than they did to Rob Ryan. So far, that seems to be the case.
Desmond Bryant, the last defensive tackle I'll look at, looks like the saving grace of this group. He is a 6'5" 290-pounder who ran a 4.92-40 yard dash and has a Harvard head on his shoulders.
He is one of those Tom Cable prototypes who won four letters in track and three in basketball in high school. He is a member of the National Honor Society, and could be the smartest Raider ever.
He recorded 13.5 sacks in 32 game appearances in college. He repped 225 pounds 35 times on the bench, and boasts 11.5" hands and 35.5" arms.
He could turn some heads and make a run in an unimpressive position for Oakland.