There are high hopes for the Oakland Raiders for the upcoming 2010 season. There are several reasons for this new found hope. Things like a new QB, new offensive coordinator, improving receivers and a new look defense. Which brings me to my question. Who is the most important member of the defense?
The defense is vital to the Raiders return to respectability. You know what they say, "defense wins championships." With that in mind, let's take a look at the biggest pieces of the Raiders defense.
Richard Seymour: Now that he has signed his franchise tag, Seymour will be back in silver and black. Coming off a season with 47 tackles and 4 sacks, he needs to continue to play the way he did in New England when he went to 5 Pro Bowls. He couldn't help the Raiders run defense, which brings me to the next player.
John Henderson: A 2-time Pro Bowler for the Jaguars, he has been signed to a one year deal for one reason... instant run stopping! His success shouldn't be measured in tackles, it should be measured by number of blockers he eats up to free the LBs.
Tommy Kelly: Kelly has queitly been a rising talent. He hasn't been recognized because of the teams overall struggles and he has been judged harshly for his then record contract in 2008. Kelly has penetrated into the pocket and has chased down RBs. With a good co-DT in Henderson, he should start getting recognized.
Lamarr Houston/Matt Shaugnessy: One of these men will start at defensive end opposite Richard Seymour. Shaughnessy looked good as a rookie playing part time but he will have to improve to be an every down player. Houston can rush the pocket and stuff the running back. He should have a few snaps to show what he's got.
Rolando McClain: He has a big weight on his shoulders, to snap the streak of failed first round picks that goes back to 2005. With Kirk Morrison gone, McClain must be the man he was when he played at Alabama. He needs to pound the gaps in the middle and stuff runners in their tracks.
Trevor Scott: Yes, he is on the list. Why? He is likely to start at OLB. He will have to stop outside running plays and pressure the QB when he is blitzed from his outside "elephant" position. He also will be in occasional man coverage so he needs to keep up with tight ends and/or running backs.
Kamerion Wimbley: After a strong rookie campaign in Cleveland, Wimbley struggled to continue his development. Costing the Raiders a mid-round draft pick makes him low risk, but his playing time will be high risk. If he has surpassed Thomas Howard, he will have much of the same responsibilities as Trevor Scott.
Nnamdi Asomugha: No doubt, the games best CB. He doesn't get interceptions because QBs simply fear him. That can't be said for Champ Bailey. Asomugha shuts down his side of the field in man coverage or when chasing down a running back.
Chris Johnson: With all the passes being thrown away from Asomugha, CJ has a lot to defend. He needs to step up his consistency to give the Raiders an even more feared passing defense.
Tyvon Branch: He had big shoes to fill when he stepped into the position once held by Gibril Wilson. Branch not only filled those shoes, he tore them. He led NFL defensive backs in tackles last season. He has shut down tight ends in pass coverage with his speed and strength.
Michael Huff: The #7 pick in 2006 hasn't done much to shed the bust label. His strong start last season was a good sign, but he didn't have consistency. He raced up to the league lead with 3 INTs after week 3, but never had another pick. As a free safety, he isn't much of a big deal in the rush defense, but as a deep safety, he must be ready for speedy WRs.
Oh, is that the whole starting defense, thats because the whole defense is important. Football is a team game and if there is one weak spot, it will be targeted by the offense. Having superstars is nice, but it is nicer to have a consistent core that performs well on every Sunday.