Another offseason, another open competition at nose tackle. Such is the case for the Las Vegas Raiders all over again.
A season after Andrew Billings earned the role of the space-eating run-stuffing defensive tackle role for the Silver & Black, the Raiders again have an open competition to see who earns the opportunity to settle in at one-technique on the interior defensive line when the team deploys a four-man front.
Las Vegas isn’t short on contenders, however. And that wide open competition that’ll continue through OTAs, training camp and preseason means a door is open. It’s ajar for a veteran, a second-year player or even a rookie to burst right through.
Such as Nesta Jade Silvera.
Las Vegas will look to a group of bigger defensive tackles such as veteran John Jenkins (33 years old, 6-3, 359 pounds), Neil Farrell Jr. (24, 6-4, 325), Adam Butler (29, 6-4, 300) to fill the role Billings (who signed with the Chicago Bears as a free agent this offseason) held in 2022 — Silvera included.
Taken in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft (231st overall), the 6-foot-2, 315-pound Arizona State and Miami product has the build of a stereotypical nose tackle. Silvera has the requisite bulk, length, and explosion to not only penetrate and wreck plays in the backfield, but he’s got the ability to anchor and occupy double teams to free up fellow defenders around him.
“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. Those guys are hard to find,” Raiders general manager Davie Ziegler said of Silvera.
The breadth of difficulty in finding defensive tackles that can not only dominate the line of scrimmage but change it with the ability to break through and get int he backfield is vast for the Silver & Black. Despite drafting a pair of defensive tackles in the 2022 draft (Farrell Jr. one of them, Matthew Butler the other), Las Vegas continues to seek answers on the interior defensive line. Silvera certainly brings powerful potential as an anchor nose tackle who wears down an offensive line over the course of the game.
His short-area quickness was on full display during his tenure at Arizona State — and Miami before that — and cemented at the NFL Combine with a 1.77 10-yard split. His get-off at the snap allowed him to get the edge on blockers and he plays with the power to drive blockers backwards. He also showed the tenacity to chase down plays and is a very active defender.
However, while he can get burst through and past blockers, his pass rush production wasn’t sack heavy and often times he’d break through and get washed out of the play due to poor anticipation and the inability to read and react — a staple of the Raiders defense under coordinator Patrick Graham. And, if Silvera can’t detach from the initial block, it takes him longer than most to ride himself of the blocker.
Thus, Silvera’s draft projections of a sixth- or seventh-rounder.
But for a Raiders teams lacking not only a clear-cut starter at the one technique, but the requisite depth, don’t discount Silvera.
He’s got good football IQ and displayed the ability to go from one scheme and successfully assimilate to a new one as he transferred to Arizona State after a four-year stint at Miami.
“I’m trying to hone in on everything,” Silver said. “I’m not perfect at anything, I’m not 100 percent great in anything and I’m trying to hone in on every little thing in my game. That’s what I’m really trying to do, just work my butt off in every facet of my game and grind. That’s all. There’s no specific part, it’s every part of my game that I’m ready to work on.”
That’s not only the proper attitude for a seventh-round pick to have, but one the Raiders must forge amongst the interior linemen group. It’s present on the edge in Maxx Crosby. Las Vegas needs more of it and if Silvera can bring that moxie along with the ability to draw double teams and stymie the run, then the pick will turn into a fruitful one.