We move inside along the defensive line and examine whether the Raiders improved at defensive tackle from last season. Here is how the 2012 defensive tackles stack up against the crew the Raiders will be putting out there this season.
2012: Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant, Christo Bilukidi
2013: Vance Walker, Pat Sims, Christo Bilukidi, Stacy McGee, Johnny Jones, Brandon Bair, Kurt Taufa'asau
Last season was a down year for the Raiders defensive line, there is no question about that. Much of that was due to Seymour struggling with a knee injury much of the season. But once he was replaced by Desmond Bryant, things began to improve considerably and over the final month of the season, the Raiders defensive line was among the best in football.
Desmond Bryant is gone now. He left as a free agent to get paid good money in Cleveland - a sound business decision from the Harvard man. He had earned his way to being one of the best defensive tackles on the market last free agency period and his loss hurts this defensive line.
The Raiders filled that position with another career backup defensive tackle - Vance Walker. Much like Bryant, Walker was given the opportunity to start over a good stretch last season and showed he deserves a shot at being a starter. Even so, Walker is still somewhat of an unproven commodity. He was chosen in round seven of the 2009 draft out of Georgia Tech and being the hometown boy in Atlanta, he was well loved by the fans there. Now he must prove he can perform as a starter away the home cooking in Georgia.
The other defensive tackle position was held down by Tommy Kelly the past eight seasons. Kelly may not have been a world beater but he was steady presence in the middle for the Raiders and had a few pretty good seasons along the way. He also didn't miss a single game over the past five seasons.
Kelly is replaced by Pat Sims who has never started a full season in his entire five-year career. At 6-2, 310 pounds, he is practically as wide as he is tall. He is a nose tackle by trade and should clog up the middle quite well. But he has always been more of a situational player and rather one-dimensional.
The only returning defensive tackle on this team is second-year player Christo Bilukidi who the team chose in round six of the 2012 draft out of Georgia State. He was late to football, having not played until his senior year in high school and joined the fledgling Georgia State football program as a junior college transfer.
Seventh round rookie Stacy McGee joins a group of rookies and first year players looking to nab the other backup job and that's not a great spot to be in. I expect it will take another season before we see marked improvement from the defensive tackle position on this team.