In something rarely seen, the entire Oakland Raiders defensive line from last season became free agents. The biggest loss was defensive end Lamarr Houston, who was a rising star. The team let underwhelming defensive end Jason Hunter go, and the Chiefs outbid the Raiders for under tackle Vance Walker. The one player they were able to retain was nose tackle Pat Sims.
Sims played well in his first season in the Silver and Black, particularly down the stretch. While a strong run defender, Sims was taken off the field on passing downs. Late in the year he began to split time with rookie Stacy McGee. In addition, they would share the field when the Raiders would put out 3-4 looks to stop the run.
This offseason they will battle it out for the starting job. As of now, due to his veteran status and starting experience, Sims has the upper hand and would start if a game if they played today.
However, McGee is a hustle player, who shows good moves penetrating the pocket. Although he could afford to gain extra weight to better work against double teams, his pass rush skills are greater than Sims, which would allow the Raiders to substitute them each less frequently.
McGee has all the physical tools to succeed, and with an offseason to develop his talents, he could develop into a stellar defensive tackle. The only reason McGee was drafted in the 6th round was due to his off the field problems. If he matures and cuts those out of his record, he can do very well.
The only question is what the Raiders want to do with McGee. Currently McGee is built more like a 3-technique under tackle, and the Raiders could potentially groom him to take over that position once Antonio Smith leaves.
However, if the team finds a better player to take over the 3-technique, they would likely ask McGee is bulk up and make a run at nose tackle. However, Sims has found a way to finally produce as a pro, and won’t likely give up the position easily.
The two dark horse candidates for the job are David Carter and Torell Troup, who were signed to future contracts. Both have extensive experience as 3-4 nose tackles and are great against the run. Troup is a large space eater body that, if healthy, would likely command massive double teams. Carter, while undersized, did well as a run plugger in Arizona.
While the outright winner will be the starter, the Raiders will likely rotate their defensive tackles extensively to keep them fresh. Sims will likely win the job out of training camp, and McGee will become the backup to both defensive tackles spots.