Among the many free agent signings the Raiders made this off-season was former Green Bay Packers' defensive lineman, CJ Wilson. Every off-season, one of Reggie McKenzie's former players from the Packers joins him in Oakland. The thing about that is the Packers run a different defensive scheme than the Raiders, so Wilson must find where he fits in with his new team.
At 315 pounds, he won't be playing defensive end in the Raiders' base 4-3 scheme as he often did in the Packers' base 3-4. But he does offer some versatility to move around the line a bit.
"I was a defensive end in a base and a 3-technique in the nickel," Wilson said of his time in Green Bay.
That role is far less defined with the Raiders. Wilson says he can play basically any position on the defensive line; "I can play 3-technique, I play end, even nose," he said.
"[Defensive line coach Terrelle Williams] has got me at the base end, the 4-technique. He just told me they rotate a lot. Wood and Tuck start off and then they put me in, rotating a lot like that. But as far as a direct role, he hasn't given it to us because we haven't played a game yet."
Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that Wilson began camp on the Non-football Injury list after straining a hamstring while preparing for conditioning tests. The injury had him miss the first six days of camp and now he must make up ground on several other players looking to be part of the Raiders' defensive line this season.
"I think this is Day Two that he's been back out at practice," Dennis Allen said of Wilson following day eight of camp, "so we'll start finding out exactly where he is after he kind of goes a little bit through the grind at training camp, the legs start to go a little bit and see how he responds to that. But, I've seen some good things. He's going to be a guy that I expect can help us, especially on run downs and be kind of that big run stuffing defensive end, inside defensive tackle for us."
It's interesting to hear Dennis Allen talk about Wilson's run stuffing abilities because Wilson takes great pride in his abilities in that area and is not modest about saying so.
"I think I can offer a lot of wisdom on and off the field, especially against the run." said Wilson. "I know I'm really excellent playing the run."
As a 3-technique, which is what he would play most for the Raiders, he sits behind Antonio Smith, another former 3-4 defensive end. Smith would be the first to tell you there is very little difference between a 3-4 DE and a 3-technique DT.
"No transition. I was a three technique [in Houston] and I'm a three technique here," said Smith. "They call it a different thing as far as a 3-4 they call it an end but you're still at a three technique which is a tackle and when you get a 4-3 they just call it a tackle. It's a good thing for me because I'm playing the same thing I've always played. Minus a couple double teams here and there."
The difference between Smith and Wilson is pretty sizable - about 40 pounds different. The two bring different things to the table. Smith is a pass rusher and Wilson a run stopper. In that regard, Wilson rotating in for Smith at 3-tech on running downs would seem to be Wilson's most likely role.
His 315-pound frame, on the other hand, might suggest he is better suited for the nose tackle spot, though Dennis Allen has stated he has high hopes for rookie fourth round pick, Justin Ellis as the depth at that spot behind Pat Sims.
It's just that type of versatility the Raiders have gravitated toward this off-season with their linemen on both sides of the ball. Versatility isn't enough by itself, though. The key could be distinguishing himself as the best rotational option for at least one position on this team if he is to beat out several other young hopefuls, most notably second-year player Stacy McGee.
"The competition is very intense this year. There's a lot of competition in that room. We got guys that can go in and there's no drop-offs. . . Everybody's got a role. . . We're just working our roles out, we still haven't figured out what it's going to be yet. But it's a good competition."