Defensive tackle was a weak spot on the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster heading into the season, and it still is nine weeks into the campaign. That’s part of the reason why the New York Giants were able to average nearly five yards per rush against the Raiders in Week 9 as a lot of Las Vegas’ interior defenders struggled to hold up against the run.
The team is looking for someone to step up at the position, especially as a 3-technique, and that player could be rookie Nesta Jade Silvera during the back half of the campaign.
Silvera finally got some playing time this past weekend with 16 defensive snaps against New York, double the number of reps he had received in the regular season up until that point. While he didn’t stand out on the stat sheet with just one total tackle, the seventh-round pick did have a handful of encouraging reps to build on moving forward.
Granted, Silvera does still have a few areas of improvement as well, so let’s break down a few of his plays from this past Sunday to see where he can help the team and where he can grow.
We’ll get a couple of negative plays out of the way so we can end on a high note.
The Giants run outside zone away from Silvera here, and he’s a little slow getting off the ball. Also, he has his hands down by his waist which allows the offensive lineman to make the first significant contact, and it looks like Silvera was late to recognize the blocking scheme.
All of that results in him getting reached which could be a bigger issue later on as it opens up the backside A-gap for the running back to cutback into.
New York runs outside zone again and this time, I’m not as concerned about Silvera letting the guard cross his face as I believe Robert Spillane is responsible for both A-gaps since he’s lined up over the center and with how the other defenders fit their gaps.
However, Silvera needs to do a much better job of staying on his feet as some pressure and a little push from Evan Neal put him on the ground. Had the front-side defenders done their jobs and forced a cutback, this would have been a tackle for loss for the rookie, but he certainly can’t make that play from his stomach.
Moving on to more encouraging reps, something that stood out about Silvera’s performance was his ability to take on double teams/combo blocks.
Here, the Giants run inside zone right at him where the center and right guard are combo blocking him on the first level and then working up to the second level to pick up Spillane. However, Silvera does a great job of attacking the guard to avoid getting blown off the ball.
That, combined with a strong base, also helps him hold ground when the center engages him to create a stalemate at the line of scrimmage. Silvera also uses his inside hand to grab a hold of the center—and does it subtly so he doesn’t get flagged—which allows him to occupy two blockers and keep Spillane clean.
While this isn’t an ass-kicking rep by any means, Silvera takes on two offensive linemen and is able to stay in his gap while also freeing up the linebacker to get involved in the tackle. These types of reps won’t show up on the stat sheet, but they will get him more playing time.
This next clip is almost the same rep as New York runs inside zone right at him again. And just like the last time, Silvera is able to create a stalemate at the line scrimmage and keep Spillane free had the running back cut into the B-gap.
For a good example of how the rookie is standing out compared to some of his teammates, take a look at Jerry Tillery, who is lined up at the other defensive tackle spot. Tillery also gets a combo block but ends up getting driven back into the linebackers and past the center before ending the play on the ground.
For good measure, how about one more beautiful rep against a double team?
This time, Silvera not only creates a stalemate at the line of scrimmage but is also partially responsible for creating a big pile of bodies right where the Giants are trying to run the ball. Again, Spillane is kept clean and Marcus Epps is able to go untouched through the B-gap because the defensive tackle is occupying two offensive linemen.
Also, compare Silvera to Bilal Nichols on this rep as Nichols ends up conceding a few yards and gets pushed past the center while the rookie sits at the line of scrimmage.
We’ll end with a good pass rush from Silvera that, similar to the majority of these plays, won’t show up on the stat sheet but is encouraging.
Here, he does a much better job of getting off the ball compared to what we saw previously. He also has solid leverage and good hand placement at the point of attack to start pushing the guard backward.
From there, Silvera's leg drive takes over, and while this won’t go down as a pressure for him, the guard is never able to anchor, which is part of the reason why that inside pass-rush lane opens up for Maxx Crosby.
That’s what makes this rep exciting for Silvera as he’s starting to collapse the pocket and the pressures will come with a little more explosiveness.