The primary goal for rookies in training camp is to win over the coaching staff, but it’s also an opportunity for them to prove themselves and earn the respect of their veteran teammates. In Nesta Jade Silvera’s case, he’s already done the latter and received praise from one of the best players on the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster.
“Hell yeah. Nesta is a dog,” Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby replied when asked if the rookie has been making his presence felt so far during the Raiders’ training camp.
After spending the first four years of his college career at the Univesity of Miami, Silvera transferred to Arizona State for his final season and made a name for himself as a disruptive run defender with 56 total tackles and 4.5 TFL in 2022. That combined with his 20.5 career TFL helped bolster his résumé for the NFL Draft. However, as a seventh-round pick, he faces an uphill battle to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster.
Last September, Las Vegas only kept six defensive tackles on the active roster and this year, the position group includes veterans Bilal Nichols, Jerry Tillery and John Jenkins—among others—as well as a few young players in Byron Young, Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler. So, it’s a crowded meeting room which can make it hard for a Day 3 pick to stand out.
But so far in camp, Silvera is doing everything he can to make sure the coaching staff and his teammates notice him.
“Since the first day he came in, he had the attitude, you can just tell like he’s hungry,” Crosby continued when talking about Silvera. “And he’s just getting better and better.
“When you’re a young guy - I told literally all the rookies when they came in - technique is one thing, but you can’t coach effort, you can’t coach attitude, you can’t coach the little things, the little things you see on film: the flying to the ball, the heart, all those little things. And Nesta’s one of those guys you can see it clear as day.”
Crosby isn’t the only one who has been singing the former Sun Devil’s praises, either. Multiple reporters have named him as one of the more impressive players during the early stages of training camp, including during the Raiders’ joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers where it sounds like he was doing a lot of winning in the one-on-one drills.
Nesta has been having a hell of a camp from my eyes. https://t.co/zkSpK4OboE— Levi Edwards (@theleviedwards) August 10, 2023
Koonce and Tillery have looked good in these 1 on 1 drills. Rookie Nesta Jade Silvera as well. Powerful.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 10, 2023
As referenced above, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Silvera has been disruptive during his short time with the Silver and Black. That’s the type of player he was in college and part of the reason why general manager Dave Ziegler drafted him.
“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,” Ziegler explained after selecting Silvera. “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.”
The general manager also said that he was surprised the defensive tackle was still available during the last round of the draft. Because of that perceived value, Ziegler had to select Silvera regardless of how many bodies were in the meeting room, and the latter has been making the former look smart so far.
“Obviously, he’s got things to clean up,” Crosby said of Silvera, “obviously he has room for improvement just like all of us. He’s a rookie, but the way you stand out is [by] flying to the ball, being mean, having an attitude, and he’s one of those guys.
“He’s plays violent, he’s getting better as a rusher, he’s getting better against the run. He’s able to do a lot of things, so I love what he’s doing. I think he’s going to be a big-time player for us.”
The Raiders ranked tied for 25th with 68 tackles for loss last season and only eight of those came from defensive tackles. Andrew Billings, who is now playing for the Chicago Bears, accounted for three, so Silvera’s biggest strength lines up with one of the defense’s biggest weaknesses. That could lead to him earning a roster spot at the conclusion of camp, especially if he ends the month the way he started it.