The Oakland Raiders added three players to their defensive line this offseason that are expected to upgrade the unit significantly in defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley (formerly an outside linebacker), and a defensive end turned defensive tackle in Antonio Smith. All three players have impressive résumés, but Woodley is 29, Tuck is 31 and Smith is 32. So as training camp gets under way in Napa, many are questioning whether how many of the veterans the Raiders brought in — both on the defensive line and elsewhere — can provide at least one more solid season.
While we may have questions about whether these guys can still play, there’s no doubt in Smith’s mind that he can still make an impact. When asked whether or not he could still disrupt the backfield at his age, Smith responded “I’m a dog all day long. On one leg I’m a disruptor.” While playing in Houston, Smith was regularly double-teamed despite playing alongside J.J. Watts, who many consider the best defensive player in the league. Even with the extra attention focused on Watts, Smith was a constant force to be reckoned with. His specialty: getting penetration and disrupting the back field.
But Smith has more than just confidence in himself. He has no concern about his abilities on the field and feels rather strongly that this defensive unit has the talent to be very good.
“We got something special here, but whenever you have something special, you always gotta have glue that keeps it together.”
Confidence is a great thing, but Smith still needs to prove that his confidence is justified on the field. The Raiders took a big risk by filling key holes with guys who may not have a lot left. At the same time, if it pays off, the Raiders could actually have themselves something special on defense while still in the middle of what’s supposed to be a rebuilding process.
So while Smith may need to prove that he is bringing the same skills to Oakland that made him great in Houston, Raiders fans can rest assured that at least one big part of Smith is coming to Oakland — his alter ego, the Ninja Assassin.
“He is I and I am him,” said Smith, quoting a lyric from Snoop’s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” in response to questions about the character Smith portrays as he enters the field on Sundays.