The Oakland Raiders’ Ferocious Front Four

If football games are won in the trenches, it's appropriate to take a closer look at the Raiders defensive line.

The Raiders released Gerard Warren this winter and drafted Lamarr Houston from the University of Texas to solidify the defensive line.

Warren showed flashes the past couple seasons, but was inconsistent. The former first-round selection never played to fan expectations. The Raiders were the third team to give up on him. He was also due a sizable salary in 2010, and that money can be put to better use elsewhere.

The Raiders have surprisingly decided to put Houston at defensive end instead of his college position of defensive tackle. On the surface it seems like an odd move—in reality, it's a very logical one.

Houston’s talents, with the ability to play defensive end or slide over to tackle, bring a versatility the Raiders' front four has lacked in recent years. Houston will provide relief for an aging Richard Seymour at end and seven-year veteran Tommy Kelly as the three-technique tackle.

Kelly has been often criticized due to the large contract he received in 2007. While Kelly may never live up to his contract, he hasn’t been a horrible player.

In 2009, Kelly totaled 14 quarterback pressures and five quarterback hits with one sack. He was a routinely good pass rusher. His biggest weakness is defending the run, but the Raiders have never asked the three-technique tackle to support the run on a regular basis.

The job of supporting the run has been placed in the lap of the other defensive tackle. The Raiders hope Desmond Bryant, the second-year player out of Harvard, is ready to succeed where Warren failed.

Tom Cable has routinely talked about Bryant as a player the Raiders are excited about. But is one quarterback pressure and one forced fumble in 2009 is enough to get excited about?

It is, because Bryant is the primary run defender on the defensive line...

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