Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour came out on the first day of Raiders camp and made a bold statement. He said he thought the Raiders could be a top five defense. Well, he isn't backing down from that opinion-he's reiterating it.
"Well, you always have goals, you always set high standards. You try to control where you fall but that's always a goal of ours. Even last year, that's still a goal. But I feel like everyone's on the same page and understanding what we're trying to accomplish. It isn't gonna be easy but we have the guys that can get it done and I feel like we have everything that we need to do what we need to do this year."
"I mean, it aint like we're pulling it out the sky. Everyone knows the type of players that we have here. But now I feel like the coaches are putting us in the right position and just have an opportunity to go out starting on Monday night to prove it."
What makes this statement a bold one is the fact that the Raiders were the 29 ranked defense in the NFL last season in terms of yards, 27th in run defense while surrendering an NFL worst 5.1 yards per carry. Although, the potential is there with the team putting up 39 sacks which was 15th in the league. And they did it without their best pass rusher-- Matt Shaughnessy.
For the answer as to why the Raiders were not able to do it last season with many of the same players, Seymour points to mentality. And he draws an intriguing parallel to a former Super Bowl winning team on which he played.
"Well, just because you have the most talented players, that doesn't mean that you're the best team." Said Seymour. "I think a team is built. I remember when the Washington Redskins were collecting a lot of talent, that was just a lot of talent. Back in 2001 when we beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, on paper the Rams were the more talented team, you know, Marshall Faulk and ‘The Greatest Show on Turf' but we still got a ring. So I know how it's done and I've seen it done and like I said we get on the same page and hold each other accountable and we have enough leaders and enough young talent to have the right mix to get it done."
As Seymour suggests, the difference is the coaches. The Raiders had an offensive coach in Hue Jackson with a defensive coordinator in Chuck Bresnahan who didn't seem to have a clue how to coach this team. From the outside it appears this defense is even more shaky than it was last season. But as Seymour says, what a team looks like on paper doesn't mean much. It's how they are coached and how they perform as a team.
Seymour's confidence appears to stem from his coaching. His new coach is defensive minded, his defensive line coach, Terrell Williams, has spent time this offseason getting to know him personally, and he likes what he sees from his new defensive coordinator, Jason Taver.
"Yeah, he's an intelligent guy, smart guy." Seymour says of Tarver. "We always call him the neurosurgeon or some scientific chemistrist or whatever. He's always cooking up a new blitz or something like that but it's always fun when they know how to break down offenses and can put you in the right place to make plays and can tell you where the ball is coming on first and second down or really giving you their tendencies in terms of what they like to do. When you're prepared that way, you can go out and play fast so it's exciting for us and that's what I'm used to."
He lauds the entire defensive staff for their approach to the team dynamic.
"Our defensive staff has called guys up to just tell their story and tell us what makes them tick and I think it's good for the defense to just know about each other and know about the guys that you're playing with. They have family and kids and other outside interests, you know, just whatever makes them tick. I definitely think that's very important."
Seymour is a seven-time Pro Bowler and has three Super Bowl rings to his credit. He says he is not near done yet and plans to take this team to the next level.
"That's my plan for sure. From everyone I've talked to, that's their plan as well. I think it's just up to me to go out and play my brand of football.
"I'm only 32 years old. You see guys playing until 36, 37 years old and I'm only 32... physically I still feel good. I just think for me just having a new challenge every year and just going out to prove yourself. That's something that always kept me going, just being a competitor and always wanting to be the best."
That next level starts Monday in the preseason opener against the Cowboys. As the cliché goes; take it one game at a time. Seymour knows the process. He's done it before. If he believes he can get back to good football with this team around him, it's hard to argue with him.