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Thursday, June 24, 2010
On the radar: Oakland's defensive line

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

The Oakland Raiders have an intriguing defensive line. If this defense is going to turn around its fortunes (and in turn help the team turn around), it will start on the line.

Give Oakland credit for trying to upgrade the unit, which has been spotty, lethargic and ineffective in recent years.

Richard Seymour
The Raiders would like more than four sacks from Richard Seymour in 2010.
Since last September, Oakland has added Richard Seymour through a trade, signed free agent John Henderson and drafted Lamarr Houston. With Seymour signing his franchise tender last week, Oakland’s defensive front appears set. Now, all it has to do is perform well.

It all starts with Seymour. He is the best defensive lineman in the AFC West and he can be a dominating force. But he was uneven in his first season in Oakland. Seymour has to be more consistent in his second season. Henderson is an interesting run-stuffer, which is key because Oakland has been terrible against the run in recent seasons. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Henderson is past his prime, but he can still be effective against the run for 25 to 35 plays a game. That will help.

The team is very excited about Houston, who probably will play end in the NFL, although he can also play defensive tackle. He is stout against the run. The second-round pick from Texas has proved to be very feisty in Oakland’s offseason camps. It’s a lot to expect a rookie to change the demeanor of a unit, but Houston has a chance to do just that.

All three of these new players can play in the 3-4 defense, so Oakland will have flexibility.

Add these players to the likes of Tommy Kelly and promising second-year player Matt Shaughnessy and Oakland has some decent pieces on the line. The key will be finding the right rotation.

If this unit comes together, Oakland should be much improved on defense.