Richard Seymour was by all accounts the dominant figure during the passing camp he helped organize this week.
He urged his teammates with an e-mail talking about all the hard work it would take for the Raiders to be winners this year. In lieu of a coach, Seymour spoke to the team as the authoritative figure in the absence of Hue Jackson or the coaching staff. His camp, with help from Competitive Edge Sports in the Atlanta area, appeared to match or exceed anything done by any other team during the lockout.
Seymour has been the big man in the Raiders’ locker room since he arrived by trade from the New England Patriots. Coaches respect him, young players look up to him. He has a championship pedigree and an aura to match.
When it comes to presence and professionalism off the field, the Raiders could hardly ask for more.
On the field, however the Raiders will need more than they’ve gotten in the 29 games Seymour has been a Raider.
Given his age (he’ll be 32 in October) and the amount of tread on the tires from 11 seasons as a defensive lineman, the Raiders wisely committed to only two years on Seymour’s contract extension. The fact that he accepted it demonstrates Seymour understands he’s nearing the end of the line.
What the Raiders need is what they got from Rod Woodson _ at least one last glorious season or two before heading off into retirement and then a possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The voting for the HOF is always trick but Seymour’s three Super Bowl rings, six Pro Bowls and reputation could serve him well. Finishing by helping lead the Raiders back into the post season would add to his legacy.
The question is whether Seymour is up to it. There have been times when Seymour has given the Raiders their most dominant defensive line play since the prime of Howie Long, a player similar in terms of strength and versatility.
But there have also been stretches where Seymour has blended in with a defense that has had way too many games of mediocrity or worse.
The season-opener in 2009 against San Diego was Seymour at his best, blowing up offensive linemen and blocking schemes, registering two sacks and being a factor on almost every play. Later in the season, it was the same thing in a win over Philadelphia. He had two sacks against Donovan McNabb that day _ and those four sacks represented his entire season total.
Sacks are only a part of his game, but the Raiders were weak against the run all season despite the ripple effect Seymour’s presence should bring.
Last season, moved inside to the three technique, Seymour had the best stretch of play by a defensive lineman since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, particularly during a three-game win streak that put Oakland at 5-4 going into its bye week. At the time I wrote Seymour was a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate.
And then . . .
As much as I enjoyed Seymour’s decking of Ben Roethlisberger from the perspective of a father of a teenaged daughter, it happened at a time when the Raiders were getting pushed around in a 35-3 loss to the Steelers. In his last five games, Seymour never had more than three tackles in a game and exactly one sack. He missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
When players voted for the winner of the Eric Turner award as the defensive MVP, the winner wasn’t Seymour, but fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
Much of Kelly’s success can probably be attributed to the man he calls “Big Rich.” Seymour helped prod Kelly into getting in better shape and by example demonstrated what it was like to be a pro. It would be hard to overstate his effect on young linemen such as Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston.
But make no mistake, the Raiders didn’t extend Seymour two years and $28.5 million in guaranteed money to be a coach on the field. They need those last two years to be Seymour at his dominant best as often as possible as they attempt to eliminate the periods of defensive inconsistency which have plagued them since 2003.