Sixth in a series analyzing Raiders position groups with a contingent of scouts and coaches in Indianapolis at the scouting combine:
Starters: RE Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, DT Gerard Warren, LE Greg Ellis. Backups_ DT Desmond Bryant, DE Greyson Gunheim, DT William Joseph, DE Jay Richardson, DE Matt Shaughnessy.
Review: As a group, was less effective than the sum of its parts. On one hand, the Raiders often played on the opposite side of the line and were among the league leaders in tackles for loss. Which was more than negated by the amount of rushing yardage they surrendered through either shabby tackling, poor gap control, or simply getting pushed around.
The Raiders thought enough of Seymour to make him their exclusive rights franchise free agent, guaranteeing him at least $12.398 million. He looked that good at times. Other times, he vanished for stretches. Although Kelly has his moments, he’s shown no sign he’ll ever be worth all the money they paid him the previous year to stay out of free agency. Warren has moments where he can’t be blocked and then . . . it’s been the story of his career at previous stops in Cleveland and Denver. Ellis, despite a balky knee, recorded seven sacks and proved to be an excellent free agent acquisition.
Third-round draft pick Matt Shaughnessy out of Wisconsin looked like a real find. He showed great range and passion, a good burst rushing the passer (four sacks) and was a sponge for everything Seymour and Ellis had to offer. Bryant, an undrafted free agent out of Harvard, was heavily involved in the defensive line rotation and produced far more than could have been expected after jumping from the Ivy League to the NFL.
Richardson, with three sacks, looks the part of a dominant lineman but plays that way too infrequently. Joseph has been on a yo-yo from being released, to being signed and then released again. Gunheim was a practice squad promotion for the second straight year.
Contract status: Nothing to worry about. Everything is within the Raiders control.
What’s next: Rumors continue of the Raiders wanting to off-load some players, particularly those with bloated contracts. Kelly and Warren would both qualify on that score, although, as noted before, these supposed fire-sales have been rumored every season and they never actually happen. The assumption here is that Trevor Scott will play linebacker based on the way he finished the 2009 season. That’s a good idea because it means more time for Shaughnessy, who will eventually push Ellis out of the starting lineup and off the roster. In the meantime, Ellis is good to have around.
The Raiders usually take a defensive lineman or two in the draft, and have scored big with the picks of Scott and Shaughnessy the past two years (it more than makes up for the Quinton Moses whiff).
Mike Waufle returns as defensive line coach. Waufle’s a big believer in leverage and position, two areas that if improved, could turn a talented front into a more productive one.