How Nick Roach Went from Utility Man in Chicago to Defensive Leader in Oakland

The Oakland Raiders revamped their defense this offseason by bringing in nine new starters. When the Raiders take the field for Week 1, the only two returning defensive starters will be defensive end Lamarr Houston and safety Tyvon Branch, and Houston will be flipping sides.

While defensive backs Charles Woodson and rookie D.J. Hayden have grabbed most of the headlines, linebacker Nick Roach has simply gone about his business.

Outside of Hayden, the Raiders made the biggest commitment to Roach, making him a key player in any defensive turnaround.

The four-year contract with $5 million in guarantees Roach signed signifies a change from utility linebacker for the Chicago Bears to a defensive leader in Oakland. A lot of the Raiders' improvement on defense will depend on the performance of Roach, who was the understudy of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.


The Practice Squad Stash

Unlike Urlacher and Briggs, Roach wasn’t drafted. A roster spot for Roach was far from assured when he entered the league in 2007. Roach initially signed with the San Diego Chargers and spent most of his rookie season on their practice squad.

However, even the Chargers knew they might have very good player on their hands. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chargers had hoped to stash Roach and even increased his practice squad pay in the weeks prior to him signing with the Bears.

Below is the scouting report Biggs compiled from multiple league sources at the time:

He is an intelligent player who has a good feel for dropping in coverage and reading routes. He breaks well on the ball and has good hands, and plays downhill in the run game and uses his hands well to shed blocks. He has a knack for being in the right position. 

By 2008, Roach became a starter for the Bears on the strong side. With Urlacher and Briggs on the team, R...

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