Rookies on the Oakland Raiders roster are going to be hard pressed to find playing time – at least at first glance.
Defensive end Tyler Brayton, however, is not one of those players – and that was the case before Oakland's 7-6 exhibition win over the St. Louis Rams Friday night at Network Associates Coliseum. The first-round pick from Colorado helped his cause even more Friday. While it remains to be seen if Brayton will start, he went a long way toward possibly being, at worst, a regular in the defensive line rotation.
Brayton was expected to compete for the starting left end job with 15-year veteran Trace Armstrong. DeLawrence Grant, who is the projected starter at right end, strained his right knee Tuesday and is likely out for another week.
While Kenyon Coleman started at left end, Brayton started on the right side and had an active night in playing the better part of two quarters. Brayton made three tackles and pressured Rams quarterback Kurt Warner into an interception.
"I did a lot of things," Brayton said. "I don't know how well I did them. We'll see on film. It's a confidence builder in the fact that you get out of the gate. Next time, I'm not going to be so nervous. I can take a lot of the things I did wrong and work on those things next week."
The Raiders are a team that is pretty well set at every position expect for defensive end. In an ideal world, Oakland would love to have a healthy Tony Bryant and Trace Armstrong as its starting pair. The Raiders, however, released Bryant after he underwent tests for a spinal cord injury he sustained last season. The Oakland front office and doctors deemed that Bryant health did not warrant a return to the football field.
Armstrong, however, has finished the last two seasons on injured reserve. When the Raiders arrived in Napa, CA, for training camp, head coach Bill Callahan said the team would ease Brayton into the mix. Brayton, however, might be ready to contribute sooner rather than later.
"After playing left end this whole training camp, on the last day he made the move," Callahan said. "We flipped him over to right end. I was really pleased with his progress. His ability to rush the passer and play the run is very good."
Football scouts have grown increasingly more infatuated with the term "motor" when referring to a player that hustles. Brayton had that reputation in his career at Colorado and showed that determination midway through the first quarter Friday when St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger completed a wide receiver screen pass to Shaun McDonald. Brayton, however, hustled to catch McDonald and limit him to a minimal three-yard gain.
"When you're surrounded by the type of players we have on defense you definitely elevate your game," Brayton said. "You want to play up to their standards."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com