In the first two parts of this series I discussed what I thought the depth chart would look like for the "skill" players and offensive line.
This time, I'll be looking at the defensive line.
Just like the offensive line, the defensive line is very difficult to predict. There are a lot of new players, a lot of options, and a lot of variables to consider—defensive ends that can play tackle, defensive tackles that can play end, and linebackers that can play defensive end.
All of these options make it almost impossible to predict the defensive line depth chart with any confidence of being right. Therefore, I've decided to offer up two options that could occur in an attempt to get at least something right.
That said, let's get moving on this.
Richard Seymour is one of the players I mentioned in the opening slide as being capable of playing more than one position.
It is entirely possible that Seymour will get as many snaps at defensive tackle as he does at defensive end. He's big enough, strong enough and smart enough to do both. In this option, I have him as the starter on the right side.
The reserves at this position are even less clear-cut than the starting spot. Trevor Scott is still listed on the official roster as an end, but Coach Cable has stated the he will be playing Scott at outside linebacker.
Jay Richardson, Greyson Gunheim, Alex Daniels, Matt Shaughnessy, and rookie stud Lamarr Houston are all listed as defensive ends as well. I feel like Houston or Shaughnessy may start at some point, which leaves the other three to fight it out for the back-up spot.
My instincts tell me that Richardson will win that back-up spot, leaving Gunheim and Daniels as the odd men out. One will make the practice squad, the other will likely be unemployed.
Tommy Kelly held this spot last season and he is certain to hold it down again, unless...ugh! So many options! That's a good thing for the Raiders, but it's bad for people like me that are trying to predict this stuff!
There are five players listed as defensive tackles on the official roster: Kelly, Chris Cooper, Desmond Bryant, William Joseph, and Ryan Boschetti. There is also undrafted rookie, Kellen Heard.
At the moment, I'm predicting that Kelly will start with Joseph and Bryant backing him up. This prediction may change based upon how well Heard and Cooper play in training camp.
I don't see Boschetti making the 53-man active roster, but he has a good shot at the practice squad.
Again, this is only the first of two options I'll be listing in this slide show.
This is the first and only truly bold prediction I'll be making in this slide show—an undrafted rookie to start at defensive tackle on opening day.
Kellen Heard is the perfect size to be a one-technique tackle. 6'6" and 345 pounds is plenty big enough to anchor down against the centers and guards of the NFL.
Heard also has the nasty streak Al Davis looks for in his defensive linemen, ala John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado (R.I.P.), and Otis Sistrunk. I think his size, strength and mean streak could put him in the starting line up come opening day.
This leaves the losers of the three-technique battle to compete for the backup spot at this position. I once again see Joseph, Bryant, and Cooper being the backups for both defensive tackle positions, with Boschetti being unemployed.
You have to love the old fashioned four-point stance!
Lamarr Houston started his career as a fullback, moved to defensive line his junior year, and proved to be a force against the run. He will still be a force, but from the defensive end spot rather than the defensive tackle spot.
Make no mistake, Houston is a 6'3", 304 pound "man-child" of an athlete and a great addition to the Raiders' defense.
Backing him up will be the same men that will be backing up Seymour on the right: Shaughnessy, Scott, and Richardson will all see playing time at the end position in 2010.
Newly-hired defensive line coach Mike Waufle has a lot of talent to choose from but some tough decisions to make.
Remember, this is only one of a vast cornucopia of options the Raiders will have to choose from on opening day.
That said, should the staff choose the first option I've laid out, it would look like this:
RE: Richard Seymour
DT: Tommy Kelly
DT: Kellen Heard
DE: Lamarr Houston
DE: Matt Shaughnessy, Trevor Scott, Jay Richardson
DT: Desmond Bryant, William Joseph
To me, this is a stout line but a risky option. It is not likely that Coach Cable would allow two rookies to start on the defensive line.
Let's look at option two now.
This is a sight all Raider fans hope to see a lot of in 2010: Lamarr Houston laying out an opposing quarterback.
He has the motor, speed, and athleticism to be a great defensive end in the NFL. If I'm correct about option two, Houston will have a lot of opportunities to make Raider fans cheer.
As I stated in option one, Richard Seymour has all the tools and is very capable of playing defensive tackle.
In this option, I have him as the starting three-technique tackle. As with all athletes, as they get older, they get a little bigger, a little slower, and a lot smarter.
Seymour is no exception and should make as good a tackle as he was an end.
Tommy Kelly is a very underrated tackle that never got the help inside that all players at this position need to succeed.
In this option, that won't be a problem!
Kelly and Seymour lined up next to one another is going to make for a migraine for the opposing offensive coordinator, centers and guards that will be expected to block them.
Matt Shaughnessy stormed onto the scene and into the hearts of Raider fans last year against the Eagles. He played great that game and put the league on notice that he was for real and here to stay.
Shaughnessy needs to work on his recognition and run defense. He had a tendency to be so focused on getting a sack that he missed seeing draws. He also bit very hard on play-action causing him to give him up containment and allow bootlegs and screens to go unchecked.
All reports are that he is willing to work very hard to improve. If he can improve the recognition aspect of his game, he can become a force on the edge for the Raiders for seasons to come.
Tom Cable and the aforementioned defensive line coach, Mike Waufle, have a lot to think about this offseason.
The backup players in option two should be the same as in option one. Therefore, if the coaching staff chooses to go with the second option I laid out, it will look like this:
RE: Lamarr Houston
DT: Richard Seymour
DT: Tommy Kelly
LE: Matt Shaughnessy
DE: Trevor Scott, Jay Richardson
DT: Desmond Bryant, William Joseph, Kellen Heard
This seems like the best option to me, but my opinion doesn't really matter. The only opinions that do are that of head coach Tom Cable, defensive line coach Mike Waufle, defensive coordinator John Marshall and, of course, Al Davis.
It is common knowledge that the biggest defensive flaw of the Oakland Raiders in 2009 was run defense. I have a sneaking suspicion this will not be the case in 2010, regardless of whether or not the staff goes with option one, option two, or some arrangement I haven't thought of in this slide show.
The defensive line will be vastly improved either way.
Hopefully for Raider Nation I'm right about this, and the fans will have something other than the scene depicted at left to cheer about!
So what do you say Silver & Black bleeders? Did I get anything right? Did I get it all right? None of it? Which option do you think is the closest to being accurate? Which one would you prefer to see?
Let's hear it!
Don't forget to catch my internet radio show "It's Game Tyme" every Saturday at 6pm EDT, 3pm PDT at www.blogtalkradio.com/itsgametyme.
Also, to find more of my written work, go to www.realsportsnet.com and click on the NFL tab or www.Raidernews.com and look for "Coach Jay Dee" in the commentary section.