The Oakland Raiders' defense has been, so far, a complete mystery.
On paper, the defensive side is very talented. Up front, the Raiders have one of the best defensive lines. Richard Seymour is one of the best defensive players of the decade. Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy are dangerous weapons while Philip Wheeler has given the Raider Nation a lot to cheer about.
The back end of the defense, however, has seen more changes than the Bay Area weather.
Oh course, this means that the obvious first-round pick for the next coming season would be a defensive back. However, I am a firm believer that the most important men on the football field are the big uglies up front.
While the Raiders have one of the most talented defensive lines, one would never be able to tell based on this season's play. Through three games, the Raiders' defensive line has only gotten to the quarterback an embarrassing three times.
Matt Shaughnessy has been the lone guy that has consistently getting pressure on the quarterback. Against Miami, he got past a great player in Jake Long. In Week 3 against the Steelers, the one sack recorded in that game was largely because of the pressure brought on by Shaughnessy.
Tommy Kelly and Lamarr Houston have not had the same early success as Shaughnessy Despite a great preseason, Tommy Kelly has been a non-factor through three weeks and was ridiculed for his lack of discipline against the Chargers.
Houston, while a great run defender, has trouble in the pass-rushing compartment. There are times where he wreaks havoc, but others where it seems like the Raiders only sent out three defensive linemen.
We cannot blame Houston entirely. I have always said that he is not suited to play a defensive end in the 4-3 defense. Instead, I would prefer it if Houston was moved to defensive tackle and came off the bench in relief.
But before the Raiders would be able to do that, they would need a prototypical 4-3 defensive end. In a year where plenty, and I mean plenty, of talented defensive players, it's hard to pick which player is the best fit for the Raiders.
The top three players suited for the position are Jarvis Jones of Georgia, Sam Montgomery of LSU and Barkevious Mingo of LSU.
Of the three, Jones is most likely the most polished pass-rusher, while Montgomery, in my opinion, is the best at defending the run. All three would be a valuable addition to the team, but I'll tell you why I like Mingo the most of the three.
Jarvis Jones is a monster on the field, but is he suited for the 4-3? Standing at only 6'2" and weighing 240 lbs, I project Jones as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense. If the Raiders were to run a base 3-4, I would be drooling over Jones, but they haven't made the switch yet and I'm not sure they will next season.
Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo are very, very similar. Both strike fear into offensive tackles and quarterbacks. Both are very athletic and can play in any system. Both are well coached and have a sense of awareness. The main difference between the two machines is that Montgomery has about 20 pounds on Mingo.
What I really love about Mingo is his hustle. In just a few minutes of game film, I noticed that Mingo, no matter how far away he is, will sprint to the ball-carrier. He will try to get the tackle, even if there is a pile of 10 players pushing the pile. He will throw himself onto the pile just for the sake of being involved.
Montgomery is no slouch either. He shows a lot of effort as well, but not as much of that hustle factor I spoke of. I did not see it to the same extent as I saw it in Mingo. I noticed that if Montgomery saw that the ball-carrier was most likely going down, he did not throw himself into the play.
In the run game, Mingo is not as polished. I contribute this to his weight of just 240 lbs. At 6'5", he should be expected to fill out his frame before hitting the NFL as a superstar.
At a draft comparison standpoint, Barkevious Mingo is a lot like Aldon Smith. Both are extremely athletic, but have the football skills to be dominant. Both players can rush the passer, but stand up and drop back if needed.
Like Jones, Montgomery would be a luxury to have, but Mingo gives that extra 50 percent when you need it the most. When I think of hustle and dedication, I think of the scene in Remember the Titans where Julius runs down the runner and forces the fumble in the championship game. Then, I think of Barkevious Mingo and how he is the type of player that can pull off the same feat.
The only thing about Mingo is that he is regarded as a very high pick, and, despite the slow start, I do not expect the Raiders to finish in the top 10 come draft time. We just have to hope that our beloved Al Davis is badgering the football gods to allow Mingo to slip to the Raiders.