For what it's worth, this will be an ongoing series of what I think needs to happen, or what I think will happen. For what I think needs to happen, I will obviously put out who, what and when I see as the best moves that are available at the time; for what I think will happen, it will be what I see as the moves that the Raiders will make, although I may or may not agree with them. So, let's get started with this installment, defensive tackle...
This is a position that was left in the lurch with the housecleaning that was necessarily done by Reggie; there was simply too much money tied up in underachieving players, with young emerging players then left out. It was a system that might have worked at one time, but it also hamstrung the team in it's ability to improve. It was not only this position that was the culprit; we saw it happen at others as well, such as WR and DB. The move to clear dead wood, dead money, and create cap room and flexibility was long overdue, but certainly hurt. The most difficult part for me to watch was in how thin the depth was; not that we did not have players, but that the overall production of our backups was so minimal for much of the year.
I will say that I thought that on the defensive line as a whole, our starters were not the worst in the league. Although they did not look impressive on paper, they were sufficient to have some early success. As the season wore on, however, most of the backups still didn't play more because they simply were not very effective, leaving starters on the field for extended periods. Not many teams are effective with not using a rotation to spell players, and we saw that our decent tackles wore down and had less effect over the course of the season; had they been able to be kept fresh, who knows how they would have played, or if they would still have faded. The assessment still has to be done, but I'll say that I am not angry at the players, which will affect how some people rate them.
Sims: Had a very solid year, and I would expect that he will be brought back. He really isn't a big sack guy, but can provide some pressure up the middle, and the occasional sack. He started more games than in any other year, with 16, and showed a surprising amount of stamina from a guy who had been just a rotational player in the past. Excellent pickup, and one that I hope that we can keep.
Walker: Had a decent year in regards to sacks, and there were some games that he played well in, but there were also games in which he disappeared. I think that McKenzie was hoping that he could show the same ability as Sims to be a starter, but I just don't think that is the type of player he is; not a knock, but just an observation. I see him (now) as really more of a rotational guy, and if he is brought back as that type of player, rather than being relied on as a starter, I wouldn't argue with his returning.
McGee: The only backup tackle that seemed to get better as the year went on; he didn't see the field much in the first half of the year, but made some starts as Walker wore down badly. The reason that he saw the field more is that he appeared to improve over the course of the season; he looks like he will be a solid rotational player, and may develop into a starter. Even if he doesn't end up starting, nice production from such a late pick.
Muir: I was hoping for more out of Muir; he had had some decent seasons in Indianapolis, if nothing special, so I thought that he may be a more effective player than he was. He was okay, but really seemed to play in bursts; show up nicely here, disappear there, some more nice work, then nothing again. A somewhat inconsistent, streaky player, it makes me wonder if it was because he has already peaked as a player, or if he was having trouble picking up the system (although that didn't seem to be an issue for other DT's). I would think that the answer to that would determine if he is brought back, or not.
Lumpkin: Basically just an emergency body; I wouldn't think he would be back as much more than a camp body. In instances like this, it will be whatever the coaches saw or thought of him on practice, which would be foreign territory to me.
Carter: Everything I've read indicates that he has some physical talent, but that he doesn't always play to it. Seeing that he has been in the league for three years and has little to show for it, I'd say that the light is not likely to come on, but that is why you sign guys to reserve/futures contracts; he is worth a low-risk gamble that will not cost much if it doesn't pan out.
Troup: Another reserve/futures contract signing that I find intriguing. Troup was doing fairly well in Buffalo until he hurt his back; I believe that he had some disk problems. He was well-regarded coming out of college, played well enough in Buffalo but not outstanding, and his injury resulted in his eventually being released (I believe it was going to take two years to rehab). He is a run stuffing DT, and doesn't provide much in the way of a pass rush, but it will be interesting to see if he was able to get over his back issues; if he gets back to what he was doing before, a solid backup, probably not a starter, but has the possibility.
Solid depth was more of an issue than anything else with this unit; it faded as the year went on. Still, the run defense was decent, ranking 13th on Pro Football Reference. More carries against than average, but fewer average yards; more TD's given up than the average, but less YPC. It seems to be more a function of poor field position than poor play. Yes, there were some games that the run defense was gashed, but overall, not a bad effort from the interior defensive line, especially given the last five years or so.