Dan Williams Is New Centerpiece for Jack Del Rio’s Oakland Raiders Defense

The Oakland Raiders aren’t having a flashy start to free agency, but they’ve already managed to add eight new players to the roster. While general manger Reggie McKenzie failed to land a game-changing talent like defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, he did focus on rebuilding the heart of his defense.

Among the Raiders’ first signings was defensive tackle Dan Williams, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals, who will be the anchor of new head coach Jack Del Rio’s defensive line. Williams will quite literally be the centerpiece of a defense that desperately needs to improve in 2015.

Many believed defensive tackle Terrance Knighton would land in Oakland because he has played for Del Rio for years in Denver and Jacksonville. He seemed perfectly suited to help the Raiders at a position of need, but the team ultimately chose Williams and gave him a lucrative contract.

Williams is such a perfect fit with the Raiders because his impact will go beyond his individual performance. Having Williams will change how the Raiders use some of their other personnel, which essentially makes his signing like signing two or three players.

Unbelievably, the Raiders were actually solid against the run last year on a per-play basis, but they fell behind so much they ended up conceding a lot of yards. Rookie outside linebacker Khalil Mack and rookie defensive tackle Justin Ellis, along with veteran defensive end Justin Tuck, kept things from getting out of hand, but it may have come at the expensive of getting after the quarterback.  

Among the problems on defense was that defensive tackle Antonio Smith had to play on running downs and passing downs. Smith ended up playing the fourth-most snaps at the position, which was also the most for any defensive tackle over 30.

Smith hasn’t been particularly good against the run in years, but he has value as a pass-rusher. By signing Williams...

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