The Raiders could use another defensive end. And it appeared they chose two in a row in the second and third round with the selections of Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. But upon further inspection, and speaking with head coach Jack Del Rio, the defensive end position will not be the primary spot for either player.
When looking at the two players who supposedly play the same position, the first thing that jumps out at you is their weight difference. There is about a 50 pound difference between them. Calhoun is 250 pounds while Ward is pushing three bills. That gives you a pretty good indication that they are not looking at them for the same position. And if either of those positions were defensive end, they would typically hover somewhere closer to 275 pounds.
As for Ward, Del Rio said he will be moving inside and primarily play 3-tech defensive tackle. That move makes sense because Ward's strong suit is his run defense. He offers a bit of pass rush, but he's better holding the point of attack.
"He's got the chance to really grow as he learns technique," said Del Rio. "But on film, he stays on his feet, chases the ball, plays hard, does a great job finishing, getting off blocks and making plays. In the run game in particular right now. Will need to develop as a pass rusher, but he's more of an interior kind of defensive lineman. Will play some defensive tackle and possibly some closed end. Good, big, active guy."
As for Calhoun, he will have a similar role to Khalil Mack, who spends equal time linebacker and defensive end in the Raiders multiple scheme.
"Shilique is more of kind of a big defensive end, SAM linebacker," said Del Rio. "He's an end of the line kind of guy. He'll have versatility in that he can play the SAM linebacker position or the Leo which is a defensive end position."
Calhoun spoke of the Raiders players with whom he expects to work with and how he would fit into the team dynamic. Those players all perform the rush outside linebacker position in Oakland.
"I think they're all very experienced guys," said Calhoun. "Even Khalil [Mack], he's just grown a lot, I think, in his second year. He's definitely taken his talents to great heights, even from just playing at Buffalo. I watched Bruce Irvin back when I was in college. He was somebody that I definitely looked up to and the same with Aldon [Smith]. Three guys, three premier guys that have a lot of talent and also have a lot of knowledge. I look forward to coming in, learning from those guys, just trying to soak it all in like a sponge and definitely trying to go out there and compete."
Defensive tackle was as position the Raiders needed to look at high in this draft - namely 3-tech DT. That's the role Ward will fill primarily, providing Mario Edwards Jr returns fully healthy from his neck injury and can man the covered defensive end position.
Rush outside linebacker is pretty well stocked on the team with the aforementioned players. But we kinda knew the Raiders would have their eyes open for a good one, and they found a very productive pass rusher in Calhoun in the third round, which is about a round lower than many expected him to be selected. He adds depth to the position, which will be needed until Aldon Smith returns after week 11.