The Raiders defense last night was ultimately as bad as it has been all preseason when considering results. The Seahawks first team offense did the same thing the Bears before them and the Saints before them did - scored a touchdown on the opening drive. But amidst the overall failure there was a glimmer of hope from the defensive line where there hadn't been before.
That hope came from Pat Sims, who played in his first game for the Raiders. Known for being a run stopper, Sims was cut loose last night to rush the passer and showed skills we didn't know he had. On the very first play from scrimmage he shucked past the Seahawks center and was on top of Russell Wilson in an instant. Wilson was forced to get rid of it and the entire Raiders defense came up to stuff the play for a loss.
He was in the backfield several times in the first half. Having Raiders defenders in the opposing team's backfield off the snap has been unheard of this preseason. The result was a rejuvenated defensive line.
I have said on multiple occasions that a defensive line is only as strong as its weakest link. That's because the offense picks and chooses who to double team. They can't double team everyone so everyone must offer something worthy of a double team to free up a pass rusher.
We saw this play itself out last season. Richard Seymour was not himself with his balky knee. Without his threat, the defensive ends could get no pressure. Once the Raiders sat him down in favor of a fresh Desmond Bryant, things turned around. Most of the Raiders' sacks came in the final four games of the season.
This is what happened through the first three games without Sims. Even when Vance Walker returned, he had the likes of Christo Bilukidi or Stacy McGee next to him. Neither of them earned much respect from opposing lines and neither did anything to make them pay for their lack of respect.
Without the threat at the defensive tackle position, no one was getting pressure. Drew Brees and Jay Cutler both had all the time they needed to pick apart the Raiders defense.
The Seahawks started out thinking Sims was simply going to anchor the middle which had them placing the double teams on the defensive ends. They found out after the first drive, Sims was coming after the quarterback and the wide-bodied defensive tackle was a bit more fleet of foot than they had anticipated.
The result was the following drive, Lamarr Houston busted loose for a tackle for loss and a sack. Then when the Seahawks compensated for Houston, Sims was in the backfield again.
The Raiders forced them to choose and no matter who they chose between Sims or Houston, the other would make them pay.
The Seahawks first touchdown was due in large part to a 50-yard pass on the second play of the game. But they were unable to get in the endzone again on the Raiders' first team defense. It is a small victory considering the Seahawks took out most their starters after the first drive but it is certainly better than what we had come to expect from the Raiders' defense the past two weeks.
Some will tell you that one guy should make this much of a difference, but in the case of a defensive line, it makes all the difference. It's like when you break your foot and it takes every other limb of your body to compensate for it.
With the entire defensive line intact, they showed a shred of hope they could compete this season. The only question is if Sims can keep it up as a fulltime starter. That's always been the question. But knowing what the line is capable of at full strength should offer some comfort. Sims is a big part of that (pun intended).