The Las Vegas Raiders allowed 4.5 yards per rush last season which ranked in the bottom half of the league. So, during the NFL Draft, the Raiders were looking for some help to fix this problem and while defensive tackle Nesta Jade Silvera was a seventh-round pick, he can be a disruptive run defender as general manager Dave Ziegler explained.
“He was a really disruptive player this year,” Ziegler said of Silvera. “...When we put on the tape it was just surprising to see this inside player and just how disruptive he was in the run game. A lot of penetration, a lot of plays where he’s in the backfield and just a lot of plays where he’s finding the football and making tackles. And so, those guys are hard to find.
“...There’s going to be a lot of competition in that defensive tackle room. Everyone’s going to have to buckle up and bring their best every day because there’s going to be a lot of hungry people in that room.”
Part of what the GM is talking about is Silvera recorded 19 defensive stops as a run defender last season which were tied for the third-most among Pac-12 defensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. How did he do it? Well, let’s flip on the tape and see what he can bring to the table.
Silvera is lined up as a 3-technique over the right guard in this first clip. UCLA runs an outside zone where the right guard and tackle are going to try and scoop block him out of the B-gap and work up to the linebacker.
However, Silvera does a good job of attacking and getting hands on the guard to disrupt the guard’s path to the second level—albeit, he could be a little more forceful to hold the offensive lineman up at the line of scrimmage but this is still a solid rep. From there, he keeps his feet moving through contact and that allows him to keep the tackle in his hip pocket to maintain control of the block.
The running back ends up going through Silvera’s gap, and he’s able to get off the block and make the tackle for a short gain all because he had good technique and kept running his feet to stay in his gap. The latter is something that’s pretty consistent with his game.
Here the former Sun Devil is lined up in the A-gap as a 2i-technique over the guard but the defensive call is going to have him slant to be head up with the center and two-gap, meaning he’s responsible for both A-gaps. The Bruins call an inside zone run which is going to test his ability to play to both gaps.
At the point of attack, Silvera is aggressive and has solid leverage to stand the center up at the line of scrimmage. He also shows off some impressive strength to get extension and gain control of the block. That allows him to get involved in the tackle when the running back cuts to the strong side A-gap even with the offensive lineman hanging onto him, which is another good example of the strength he has.
You can’t ask for much more than this from a two-gapping defensive tackle, especially when he lines up out of position and slants to his assignment.
This next rep is about as good as it gets when taking on a combo block. Oklahoma State is running duo with Silvera lined up as a 1-technique and shaded on the weak side of the center. So, the offense is trying to set up a combo block on him to kick him out of the A-gap and then pick up the linebacker, No. 8.
However, Silvera attacks and gets extension against the center and absorbs contact from the guard to the point where he’s almost unfazed. That allows him to stay in his gap despite taking on two blockers and the cherry on top is he’s able to escape and factor into the play. This is a picture-perfect way to take on a double team.
Now we’re going to see how physically dominant Silvera can be when he’s fresh and his get-off is on point.
The Cowboys run split mid-zone where Silvera is going to be on the back side A-gap. He gets off the ball and is able to get a leverage advantage at the point of attack with his helmet underneath the guard’s helmet. Again, the defensive tackle does a great job of keeping his feet moving through contact, and that, combined with his upper body strength, helps him reset the line of scrimmage and play in the offense’s backfield.
Finally, he escapes the block and comes flat down the line of scrimmage after breaking free to get involved in the tackle for a two-yard gain. That’s pretty impressive seeing as he started the rep on the back side.
There’s not much to break down from the clip above as it’s just a simple inside zone RPO with Silvera playing as a 1-technique on the play side. He shows solid leverage on contact again and has the strength to just manhandle the center to go get a TFL. This is an example of the reps Ziegler was talking about where he can be disruptive a wreck an offense’s play call.
Again, when the ASU product is fresh and gets off the ball, he can be hard as hell to block. Here, he nearly picks the tight end running the split zone action across the formation because he just physically dominates the center. Not only does he reset the line of scrimmage, but he drives the offensive lineman two yards into the backfield and caps off the play by getting off the block and setting up a third and long.
Don’t be surprised if Silvera ends up making the roster as a seventh-round pick at the end of training camp and he could really bolster the Raiders’ defensive tackle rotation.