Defensive end is another position the Oakland Raiders added to significantly in the offseason. The goal was to bring in competition to breed success at as many positions as possible. Defensive end seems like a position where the Raiders should be better off in 2014. There will be serious competition for the final spots here.
Justin Tuck was brought to Oakland to be a leader and mask the loss of defensive end Lamarr Houston. Tuck had 11 sacks last season, which would have been far and away the most on the Raiders. Oakland will hope he can duplicate that effort and bring more production to the pass rush. He will be a key on the defensive line and a player the Raiders will count on heavily in 2014 to improve the unit.
Another free agent brought to Oakland this offseason to help the pass rush is LaMarr Woodley. Woodley was slowed by some injuries that past few seasons, but has said he is healthy heading into 2014. Woodley is expected to start opposite Tuck to bolster the pass rush in a way the team has been unable to do in the past two seasons. The Raiders have not been able to consistently muster a pass rush from the front four, which they hope will change with Tuck and Woodley.
C.J. Wilson was brought to Oakland from the Green Bay Packers this offseason in another move to create pass rush options. Wilson is expected to be in the defensive end rotation. He was drafted by the Packers when Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie was with the team. That familiarity should suit Wilson well to acclimate to the team and be in a position to make an impact.
This is where the competition in training camp really heats up. The Raiders will keep five defensive ends at most. That means Ryan Robinson, Shelby Harris and Jack Crawford will have to earn a spot with a strong training camp and preseason. Crawford is a former fifth-round pick in 2012, but has yet to make much of an impact. He appeared in 15 games last season on special teams and in rotational defensive end work. It is time for Crawford to develop into a strong depth player or he has a chance to be gone.
Robinson had a very strong preseason in 2013 that propelled him into a spot on the 53-man roster. He appeared in 11 games, including some situational work at defensive end. Robinson is not a big defensive end at 6-4, 255 pounds, but he showed a solid motor and ability to pressure. He will be a player to watch in preseason.
Harris was drafted by the Raiders in the seventh-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He did not play college football last season due to off the field issues. His production at Illinois State was very good, but the NFL is a huge step up in competition. He is going to have an uphill battle in training camp to show he belongs on the roster. If he can show ability, but is beat out in the competition by Crawford or Robinson, he is a prime practice squad candidate.Tags: C.J. Wilson, defensive end, Football, Jack Crawford, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, Ryan Robinson, Shelby Harris, training camp