Undoubtedly, the Raiders have at least a few holes and missing pieces which need to be fixed before they can field a competitive team.
But, isn't it about time the Raiders address the biggest position on the team?
No, I'm not talking about QB; JaMarcus Russell isn't that big yet.
I'm talking about the nose-tackle position.
The Raiders haven't had a real nose-tackle since 6'5, 375 pound Ted Washington in 2005.
Because of that, Tommy Kelly has taken a lot of heat from fans and pundits who don't understand the roles of the players on the D-line in a 4-3. And most of them don't understand that the two defensive tackle positions are completely different and unique.
Tommy Kelly plays the three technique, which by definition is:
Also known as an "under tackle," a three-technique tackle lines up opposite the outside shoulder of a guard and shoots that gap between guard and tackle to put pressure on the quarterback, combining a tackle's size and an end's speed.
His job is to control the strong-side guard and the B-gap, between the guard and tackle, penetrate and be a disruptive in the backfield, and he has done a very good job.
Actually, Tommy Kelly has done such a good job that despite facing constant double teams, he was the NFL’s 14th most productive of all D-linemen, including defensive ends.
Of all NFL defensive tackles, he was the fourth most productive.
Based on production, Tommy Kelly is the best player on the Raiders D-line. Yes, even better than Richard Seymour and Trevor Scott.
Kelly has been praised for his work ethic and devotion in the weight room by numerous players and coaches, including Raider defectors Lane Kiffin and Warren Sapp.
He just needs someone next to him to help take off some of the pressure. He needs a partner in crime in the interior D-line. He needs someone who can play the one and zero technique the way it was meant to be played.
The Raiders nose tackle usually plays the weak side shoulder of the center. His responsibility is to control the center and weak side A-gap and draw a double team from the weak side guard and center.
This position is usually the biggest, strongest player on the team. They not only play with tremendous strength, but great technique and leverage as they are expected to be immovable. They are also often shorter and stockier than the three technique.
Together, the two defensive tackles are not only responsible for holding their gaps and the center of the field, but also preventing the center and guards from having a free release on the middle backer.
If the Raiders were able to get a real nose tackle, it not only would directly benefit Tommy Kelly by allowing him to work without the burden of constant double teams, but it would help the middle linebacker as well, Allowing him to flow to the ball and better maintain his gap assignment (strong-side A-gap).
By directly benefiting Tommy Kelly and Kirk Morrison—or whoever replaces him—it would also indirectly benefit the whole defense.
Tommy Kelly would be free to wreak havoc without being double-teamed. The D-ends would receive less attention from the o-line and teams no longer would be able to run at will, forcing the pass against our defense.
The Raiders have Gerrard Warren, Richard Seymour, and Desmond Bryant—none of whom can effectively play the one-technique. But, would all be great backups at the three technique behind Tommy Kelly.
So the Raiders need to find someone outside of their current roster.
Nose tackle is arguably one of the hardest positions to fill, requires a special skill set, and is in high demand, so the list of candidates is short.
Here is a list of the top candidates who may be available to the Raiders.
Aka "Mount Cody" out of Alabama at 6'5', 365 pounds he is a beast of a man. In the past he has had weight issues ballooning to over 380 at one point.
He is described as a 6’5', 360-plus-pound athletic anomaly for his incredible athletic ability for a man his size.
He is actually able to dunk a basketball at 360+. He is projected to go mid- to late-first round. Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt had this to say about him.
"I haven't seen anybody who's a match for this guy one-on-one, nobody playing on Saturdays or Sundays probably."
Has an impressive scouting report where he is praised for his strength, active hands, and impressive lateral speed for a nose tackle.
He is said to—at times—look like a man among boys because of his superior strength—A strength that is said to be at the next level. He is projected to go late in the first round, but may fall to the second.
At 6'2'' 325 he is considered as one of the best in the game. At 28 he has great experience from playing with the New England Patriots for the last six years.
If Richard Seymour stays in Oakland, he may be able to persuade his former team-mate to wear the silver and black.
As a seventh year nose tackle, he holds down the middle of the San Francisco 49ers defense. He is a key factor in the success of Patrick Willis and is an unsung hero in the 49ers defense.
In 2009 he recorded 36 tackles, two sacks and an interception. His free agent status has been under the radar but don't expect that to last.
At 6'3'' 305 he is a little light for a nose-tackle but still more than serviceable. Although, he is also considered a head case by many and has a long arrest record. He should be considered but not as a first choice.
At 6'1'' 325, this 32-year-old veteran is ideal and exactly what you look for in a nose tackle. He plays with great strength and leverage.
In 2009, he recorded 43 tackles and 2.5 sacks for the Steelers. When he hits the market this off-season, he will be a hot commodity.
Rogers is not scheduled to become a free-agent in 2010. But the last few years he has made his displeasure in Cleveland known and tried to complain his way off of the Browns to no avail.
It may be worthwhile to entertain trade negotiations with the Browns.
It’s hard to say who the best candidate is to be Tommy Kelly's partner in crime on the interior d-line, but undoubtedly the Raiders need to find someone. It's just a question of whom?
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