With reporting day two weeks away, the second in a series of questions and issues to be sorted out in Napa:
With a full training camp, can Richard Seymour elevate the play of the entire defensive line?
When Seymour signed his exclusive franchise free agent tender on June 19, it meant the nine-year veteran would be in camp on time, taking the Nnamdi Asomugha approach to being franchised rather than showing up for the opener like Charles Woodson.
Coach Tom Cable worked overtime last year stressing Seymour’s influence on the rest of the defensive linemen, end Matt Shaughnessy and tackle Desmond Bryant in particular.
But at the end of the season, the Raiders remained deficient against the run (29th in the NFL), continued to allow rushing touchdowns (24) at a pre-Seymour rate and were middle of the road in terms of a pass rush (34 sacks). When playing as much man-to-man coverage as the Raiders do, pressure on the quarterback must rise above mediocre.
By season’s end, Seymour had four sacks _ down from eight a in 2008 _ to go along with 47 tackles and a forced fumble. Two of those sacks came in a remarkable Monday night opener against San Diego just two days after he reported while sorting out his personal affairs and getting used to the idea of being traded from the New England Patriots for a 2011 first-round draft pick.
Seymour has never been big in the sacks department, but his reputation in New England was of a player who was so difficult to block he made everyone else better on an ever-changing multiple defense _ often as an end in a 3-4 scheme.
With the Raiders, Seymour, according to Football Outsiders, had a team-high 17 hurries and was named to their “No-Help All-Stars” team, indicating he hadn’t exactly elevated the games of other linemen such as Tommy Kelly and since departed veterans Gerard Warren and Greg Ellis.
The Raiders are counting on a full training camp making a difference, with Seymour showing the way to the likes of Shaughnessy, Bryant, Jay Richardson and rookie second-round pick Lamarr Houston.
Another factor is the return of line coach Mike Waufle, whose job it will be to bring a unit mentality to a group which has shown the raw ability to beat the man in front of them but too often fails to cover for each other.