The first position on the defense getting the training camp preview is defensive tackle. The game is won in the trenches. With the offensive line bulked up, the Raiders defensive tackles will have their work cut out for them in camp. As they say 'iron sharpens iron'.
Here is how the defensive tackles look heading into training camp:
DT: Antonio Smith, Stacy McGee, Ricky Lumpkin
NT: Pat Sims, Justin Ellis, Torell Troupe
Vance Walker was not brought back (he's with the Chiefs now) and the team replaced him with Antonio Smith who signed as a free agent from the Texans. They then drafted Justin Ellis out of Louisiana Tech in the fourth round.
The big question
Can Pat Sims once again be a full time starter?
The Raiders signed Pat Sims to a one-year contract last off-season and he earned the right to get another one. He was a fulltime, 16-game starter for the first time in his career. He didn't receive much interest on the free agent market and in the end, opted to return to the Raiders. The Raiders and the rest of the league would like to see if he can replicate what he did last season by staying healthy and not wearing down late in games unless he is in a rotation. His conditioning in camp will once again be key.
Best case scenario
Justin Ellis shows early on that he can be in the rotation at the nose tackle spot. His emergence as a rookie would take pressure off of Sims to play every snap. Neither player would wear down in games or late in the season which was an issue with the entire Raiders defense last season.
Worst case scenario
Antonio Smith at 33-years-old can't hold up in the transition from 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 defensive tackle. Smith has never been much of a run stopper. Pass rush has always been his thing. He will be asked to rush the passer but the primary area he must improve with the switch to DT is stopping the run. The newly acquired defensive ends and outside linebackers will be the primary pass rushers. Smith needs to make sure he doesn't overpursue and holds his ground against blockers. He is currently behind in that transition due to a workout injury that had him out all off-season.
Stacy McGee was the Raiders 6th round pick in 2013. He showed some promise as a rookie and the team has high hopes for him. They like to use him as their success story in taking a chance on a troubled player and having it work out. Several of their 2014 draft picks had some character questions, most notably seventh round pick, Shelby Harris.
Antonio Smith is the latest in a recent Houston-Oakland pipeline which has included Mike Brisiel, Greg Knapp, Matt Leinart, and Matt Schaub coming to Oakland and Shane Lechler heading to Houston.
Justin Ellis' nickname is "Jelly" or "Jelly Bean". He embraces this nickname and even uses the Twitter handle @JeLLy_ThaDON.