Some of Raiders defensive tackle Terdell Sands' teammates like to joke about his size.
They say he's so big he doesn't need to use technique to stop the run. If he sticks his arm out and someone runs into it, they have no choice but to fall.
If only it were that simple.
If Sands technique isn't good, he never gets the chance to stick out that massive arm. Because if he doesn't play with good leverage, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound (if you really believe the roster weight) Sands' size means little.
Anyone can be blocked if they stand up too soon out of their stance and that was one of the problems with Sands last year.
There was a lot of hope he'd be the run-stuffing force he showed flashes of in 2006. He signed a four-year, $17 million deal in 2007, but wasn't close to being the player he was a year earlier.
Because of that, Sands was constantly being yanked in and out of games. He's the kind of player that gets better the long he's on the field.
The Raiders believe his conditioning is ahead of schedule after he missed much of the offseason program in 2007 dealing with personal issues.
The Raiders don't need Sands to be an every-down player. But they do need good technique.
And once he sticks his arm out, he better clobber people.
As for the defensive ends, it's all about Derrick Burgess.
I believe he'll be fine this season. He had only eight sacks and missed two games with a calf injury.
If Burgess is at his best, at least two opponents will need to monitor him in the passing game. That means the Raiders need to be able to get pressure up the middle and from the opposite defensive end to allow Burgess to do what he does best.
Also, at full strength, I expect Burgess to be solid against the run. That's an underrated part of his game.
Defensive line preview
Burgess: A team captain that is looking to dominate again. He had 27 sacks in 2005-06. Eight last season isn't shameful, but he'll want more in 2008.
DE Kalima Edwards: Typical Raider pickup. He's a talented player that has underachieved.
DE Derrick Gray: Undrafted rookie could end up on the practice squad.
DE Greyson Gunheim: Another undrafted rookie that could be a practice squad player.
DE Grant Irons: Was a linebacker last time he was a Raider, but is probably better suited on the line.
DE Jay Richardson: If his pass-rush skills continue to improve, he could start opposite Burgess and not come out in passing situations.
DE Trevor Scott: Rookie showed promise as a pass rusher in college after being moved from tight end.
DE Greg Spires: Veteran could help in passing situations immediately.
DT: William Joseph: Like Edwards, a high draft pick looking to prove he can be effective on a new team.
DT Tommy Kelly: Everyone knows about the contract worth $50.5 million. He needs to prove the ACL he tore is fully healed before worrying about proving he's worth the money.
DT Tranell Morant: Long shot to make the team with so much money invested in the position.
Sands: Shouldn't be blocked by one person if he plays right.
DT Josh Shaw: Could earn playing time if Sands doesn't play well.
DT Gerard Warren: Looked like the Raiders best defensive tackle until getting hurt during the bye week. He had four sacks in 12 games and figures to start next to Kelly.