Raiders Position Battles: Defensive Line

A look at the Raiders position by position - we continue with the defensive line.

The Oakland Raiders defensive line will be critical to the team's success this year. The Raiders finished second to last in the NFL in sacks last year with 22. In contrast, the Buffalo Bills were No. 1 with 54. The Silver and Black is also looking to shore up the league's 22nd ranked run defense. Veteran defensive end Justin Tuck led the team in sacks a year ago with five.

Defensive end/linebacker LaMarr Woodley is off to the Arizona Cardinals after six games in Oakland last year, and defensive tackle Pat Sims is back with the Cincinnati Bengals after two seasons with the Raiders. Defensive tackle Dan Williams joins the Raiders after five seasons with the Cardinals. The Raiders also addressed the defensive line in the 2015 NFL Draft with defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Max Valles. Jethro Franklin takes over as defensive line coach.

Justin Tuck | 6'5" | 265 | Notre Dame | 11th Season

The two-time Super Bowl champ enters his second season in Oakland. The elder statesman of the front seven, Tuck led the group in sacks a year ago. He may not have put up double-digit sack numbers, but his leadership is invaluable.

Bottom Line: Tuck is still capable of making game altering plays as he caused two turnovers against the Denver Broncos a year ago, one a fumble returned for a touchdown.

C.J. Wilson | 6'3" | 300 | East Carolina | 6th Season

Wilson can play end or tackle, is big enough to set the edge on the playside and athletic enough to chase down ball carriers from the backside. He chalked up 23 tackles and two sacks last season, as well as his first-career fumble recovery.

Bottom Line: Wilson's size, versatility and experience make him a valuable asset.

Dan Williams | 6'3" | 315 | Tennessee | 6th Season

Williams, a run-stuffing defensive tackle, was one of the Raiders major free agent "gets" this offseason. Although he missed some time during the offseason program due to injury, the Raiders are counting on Williams to be the starting point for strength up the middle and help shore up the run defense.

Bottom Line: This big, powerful man will be key for the Raiders defensive front.

Justin Ellis | 6'2" | 334 | Louisiana Tech | 2nd Season

The Raiders drafted Ellis in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he has turned into a pleasant surprise. Another big, powerful man with surprising quickness and agility, Ellis saw action in all 16 games with 14 starts last season. He recorded 21 tackles during his rookie campaign.

Bottom Line:  Ellis could and should start at defensive tackle alongside Dan Williams.

Stacy McGee | 6'3" | 310 | Oklahoma | 3rd Season

McGee definitely has the size to be an anchor in the middle. He saw his playing time reduced significantly in 2014 after playing in 15 games with five starts his rookie season. He went from 20 tackles in 2013 to four in 2014.

Bottom Line: The 6th round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft is going to have to work hard and prove he belongs.

Mario Edwards Jr. | 6'3" | 280 | Florida State | 2nd Round

Edwards Jr., the son of a former Dallas Cowboys defensive back, played for a National Championship-winning program at Florida State. An All-ACC first team selection in 2014, Edwards played three years at Florida State and saw action in 36 games with 26 starts, and totaled 89 tackles (52 solo), 23 tackles for loss, eight sacks, seven passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Bottom Line: Edwards has versatility and could be used at a variety of positions. He will be expected to contribute right away.

Benson Mayowa | 6'3" | 252 | Idaho | 3rd Season

The Raiders claimed Mayowa off waivers from the Seahawks at the end of the preseason last year. He recorded 13 tackles and one sack for the Silver and Black last year. He is reunited with Ken Norton, Jr., the former Seahawks' linebackers coach who has joined the Raiders as defensive coordinator.

Bottom Line: Mayowa is a relentless hustle, effort player, who never gives up on a play. You can always find room on your team for a guy like that.

Shelby Harris | 6'2" | 288 | Illinois State | 2nd Season

Harris showed flashes in the preseason after the Raiders selected him in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Cut and signed to practice squad, Harris was promoted to the active roster at the end of the season and recorded two tackles against Denver in the season finale.

Bottom Line: Harris has a chance to stick as a rotational player and edge rusher.

Max Valles | 6'5" | 251 | Virginia | 6th Round

Valles played linebacker and defensive end in college. He played two seasons at Virginia, seeing action in 22 games with 16 starts and totaled 78 tackles (32 solo), 13 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one INT and 12 passes defensed.

Bottom Line: Regardless of the round, you draft players for a reason and Valles has a lot of upside. He is long and athletic and you can never have enough pass rushers.

Denico Autry | 6'5 | 273 | Mississippi State | 2nd Season

Autry showed flashes during his first season. He saw action in 10 games and recorded 13 tackles. He spent the first part of the season on the practice squad and was promoted to the active roster in late October.

Bottom Line: Autry has legitimate competition at his spot and will have to fight tooth and nail.

Ricky Lumpkin | 6'4" | 300 | Kentucky | 4th Season

Lumpkin enters his fourth season in the NFL after playing in five games for the Raiders last season. He recorded nine tackles and one sack. He spent a good part of last season on the practice squad and was promoted to the active roster in late November.

Bottom Line: Lumpkin showed ability and hustle during his limited time. He's another guy that could find a niche as a rotational player.

Leon Orr | 6'5" | 323 | Florida | UDFA

Orr has good size and seems to be getting people's attention. He played four years at Florida, seeing action in 39 games with 10 starts Orr totaled 62 career tackles (31 solo), 4.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, one pass defensed, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

Bottom Line: Spots behind Williams and Ellis are wide open and it wouldn't be surprising to see an undrafted free agent like Orr jump in and earn one.

Gary Wilkins | 6'2" | 240 | Furman | UDFA

Small defensive end out of a small school. He played four years at Furman, seeing action in 48 games with 41 starts. Wilkins totaled 294 career tackles (150 solo), 15.5 sacks, two INTs, 36 tackles for loss, 14 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Bottom Line: His productivity in college speaks volumes, but Wilkins is undersized for an NFL defensive end. It will be interesting to see if he matches up at this level.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content