The Oakland Raiders have a much better defensive line this year than they did in 2013. Even after losing their best lineman in Lamarr Houston to free agency the Raiders were able to upgrade their defensive line as a unit. They added pass rushing specialists as bookends in Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley as well as defensive tackle Antonio Smith while re-signing defensive tackle Pat Sims who had an impressive year with the Raiders in 2013.
But once you get past what looks like a fairly impressive starting front four, you don’t have much worth talking about. Second year defensive tackle Stacy McGee looks promising but is still rather raw, while third year player Jack Crawford has not shown much in his short career. The Raiders also added defensive end C.J. Wilson from the Packers, but he doesn’t look like anything special.
Most of the better defensive line units in the NFL have contributors beyond their starting four. A good rotation is key to keeping the defensive line fresh through the entire game and ensuring that you can get pressure on the quarterback. The Raiders don’t have enough linemen to put together a strong rotation that will be able to keep pressure on the quarterback through the fourth quarter, and that’s before you get into how they’d deal with injuries to any of their key contributors.
Plus, as it has been noted many times this offseason, most of the players the Raiders brought in are at the tail ends of their careers. They still have the ability to contribute and have an impact, but they will have a greater impact if they can sit some plays out and stay fresh throughout the entire game. It also doesn’t hurt that these veterans would be great influences on young defensive linemen who are new to the league.
There will likely be great options available to the Raiders at the number five pick or later in the first round should they decided to trade back. But they can also find help in deeper rounds as well. They do not need to find a superstar who can take games over as soon as he hits the league (though that would be nice), but they do need to upgrade their depth and find a player or two who will be able to contribute as a rookie.
Defensive tackle rankings
Defensive end rankings