Entering his 12th season in the NFL, Jamal Williams will plant the solid base at nose tackle. Named to the Pro Bowl for his third consecutive season in 2007, Williams plays a predominant role in anchoring the Bolts' run defense.
Williams dealt with knee and elbow injuries last season, causing him to miss three regular season games plus the Pro Bowl. After years of poundings and beatings in the NFL, his body's durability might come into question next season. He underwent offseason knee surgery but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Igor Olshansky, Williams' right-hand man, will return in full force prepared to top his career high stats from last season of 69 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception. His bully strength and hard work ethic should see him through another strong year.
Luis Castillo completes the starting trio. While he ended the season starting beside Williams, he missed six games due to a severe ankle injury for the second consecutive season. He needs to stay healthy to play up to his first-round ability.
DE Jacques Cesaire
While Castillo was sidelined for a chunk of games, Jacques Cesaire stepped in and played the best ball of his five-year career. However, he remains most effective coming off the bench. Recording 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year, he saw time in all 16 games.
Brandon McKinney recently signed a new one-year contract after marking a solid sophomore season with the Bolts. McKinney scraped up the primary backup role behind Williams, starting two games in Williams' absence and finding a regular spot in the rotation. McKinney doesn't have Williams' ability to collapse the pocket but he can hold his ground in the middle.
Ryon Bingham filled in for Castillo and Williams at times last season and will be expected to step up at any given time. He provides solid depth and injury protection that allows the Bolts to dress only five defensive linemen on most game days.
At 6'3" and 333 pounds, Lamar Divens of Tennessee State signed with the Bolts as an undrafted rookie free agent and most definitely has the right size to play at nose tackle. Divens has the drive, heart and massive body to push McKinney, a former undrafted free agent himself.
The origin of Divens seems to have mouths wagging. He transferred from Vanderbilt to Tennessee State before his junior year and marked six tackles in the first three games. Unfortunately, TSU was alerted that Divens was ineligible to play or travel with the team due to the erroneous paperwork Vanderbilt had provided the NCAA.
Keith Shologan of Central Florida also joins the Bolts an undrafted rookie. The 6'2", 290-pound defensive end has the full support of UCF D-line coach Jim Paganos.
"Shologan is the hardest worker I've seen in my 11 years of coaching," Paganos said. "He is really good at getting off the line and he also gets really great leverage with his hands. He takes coaching extremely well and applies it to game situations."