by Matt Kawahara
ALAMEDA -- When the Raiders lined up in a four-man defensive front against Detroit on Saturday, Lamarr Houston was in his usual position rushing off the end. When Oakland ran out its nickel package, though, Houston slid inside.
Shifting inside isn't new to Houston -- he did it in college at Texas and said he moved around on the line last year as well. But it's an indication that the Raiders have some versatility on the defensive line. Along with Houston, free agent signee Dave Tollefson is listed as a defensive end, but played inside occasionally while with the New York Giants.
Head coach Dennis Allen was asked today how that flexibility might affect his decision-making on the line when it comes time to determine the 53-man roster on Friday. Knowing that he has at least two players who can toggle between tackle and end, might Allen be more inclined to weigh talent more than position distribution when making the final call?
Yes, Allen said, and not only on the line.
"If we've got a good football player, I'm going to find a way to make sure he's on this football team," Allen said. "That's the way you develop a team is you keep good football players, and that won't stop throughout the season. Everybody's going to be evaluated throughout the season, and we'll make whatever moves we need to make to give ourselves a chance to win."
Take defensive tackle, for instance, since we're already talking about the line. Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are locks to make the roster and Desmond Bryant is clearly the primary backup, but competition for the fourth spot is tight right now between Jamie Cumbie and Christo Bilukidi.
Cumbie, who was on the Raiders' practice squad last year, had a terrific game against Detroit, batting down three passes and recording a sack. One of his deflections resulted in an interception when it fell into the hands of Bilukidi, the Raiders' sixth-round draft pick this year who intrigues the coaching staff with his (still somewhat raw) potential.
Asked if he might consider going forward with five tackles on the roster, Allen said: "That's a possibility. Listen, I'm not into the numbers game as far as, 'we're going to keep this many at this position and this many at this position.' We're going to keep the best 53 that gives us the best chance to win games on Sundays. Those numbers, they can change, but we're going to keep the guys that we feel give us the best chance to win."
As for who has the most riding on Thursday night's preseason finale at Seattle in terms of making one last push for a roster spot, Allen wasn't biting. "What that exact number is, I don't know," he said. "But there's still a lot of decisions to be made."