Now we move inside along the defensive line to the tackles. These guys' number one duty is to not let anything get through. They can also provide some pass rush as well. The best defensive tackles require double teams which creates an advantage with the defense being able to hopefully free up someone to make a play. The very best will make a play regardless of whether the offense focuses on them.
There have been a few good big men in the middle of the Raiders' defensive line over the years. Now to see where the 2014 line projects among them.
For two years, the Raiders had the best of all worlds at the defensive tackle spots. Seymour was nearing the twilight of his career and a move to defensive tackle earned him two more Pro Bowls in these two seasons. His play was contagious and it helped Tommy Kelly to have the two best seasons of his career as well. They held down the middle of the Raiders defensive line and commanded double teams which helped free up outside rushers to get sacks. The Raiders had their only two non-losing seasons in 2010 and 2011. The credit for those two seasons always goes to the offense but the Seymour/Kelly duo was helping get the defense off the field so the offense could go back to work.
For the first two seasons Sapp was part of the Raiders defensive line, he actually attempted to play for the good of the team. Having long time veteran defensive line anchor, Ted Washington, beside him helped things a great deal. Sapp went out with injury after in week 10 of the 2005 season and was replaced by Tommy Kelly who, in his second season, was splitting time at tackle and end and actually ended up with better season numbers than Sapp across the board. And since the only real competition that matters is the opposition, the Raiders got the best of their combined stats.
3. Richard Seymour/Desmond Bryant, Tommy Kelly (2012)
This was Seymour's final season and he was healthy for just six game before being lost for the season. Desmond Bryant stepped in and played masterfully. Once he got his footing, the Raiders had a top five defense over the final five games. This was also Kelly's final season with the Raiders and he had a fairly average season
Of the elder statesmen the Raiders signed this off-season, Antonio Smith is the eldest of the bunch. He'll turn 33 in October. On the other hand, he has shown really no signs of slowing down. The question here is how he will handle the switch from 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 defensive tackle. Richard Seymour took to it no problem but Smith is no Richard Seymour. While Smith gets high marks for pass rushing each season, he has long struggled with stopping the run. As a 4-3 DT, he will need to be better in that area. Sims is coming off a season in which he defied skeptics and started an entire season at nose tackle and played quite well, in fact. Despite this, no teams made a serious run at him in free agency which suggests there is still skepticism he can do it again. He eventually re-signed with the Raiders. Like Smith, he could go either way in his production this coming season.
5. Vance Walker, Pat Sims (2013)
The main reason the 2013 squad falls beneath the 2014 one is Vance Walker had similar issues against the run but nowhere near the pass rush abilities Antonio Smith possesses. Sims had a great season in 2013. The two helped the Raiders to a 13th ranked run defense - their best ranking in over ten years. They don't get all the credit for that ranking, of course, but they get much of it.
6. Warren Sapp, Tommy Kelly (2006)
These two had great tackle numbers but that was mostly a product of Raiders offense being so bad that the opposing offenses would run the ball most of the game rather than risk letting the Raiders jump up and beat them with turnovers. This was also the season Sapp was hanging around trying to pad his Hall of Fame resume by disregarding stopping the run and instead going after the quarterback. He had 10.0 sacks that season but to the detriment of the play of the defense. The team was terrible and he cared for nothing but his personal stats as he played out his career. Kelly's sack numbers dwarfed Sapp's considerably 68-47 in combined tackles and 53-32 in solo tackles.
7. Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren (2008-09)
When you look back at their numbers, it's almost odd to think that this duo started alongside each other for two whole seasons. While Kelly played his best the following seasons next to Richard Seymour, he played his worst with Warren next to him. During their two seasons together, the Raiders had an average run defense ranking of 30.
8. Warren Sapp, Terdell Sands (2007)
The final season of Sapp's career. He had similar tackle numbers to the 2006 season but without the sacks (2.0). And without Tommy Kelly starting alongside him, the Raiders had the 31 ranked run defense. Terdell Sands earned the first syllable of his name as the starter.