The signings of Warren Sapp and Ted Washington at defensive tackle gained many headlines but Brayton's ability to improve on his rookie season will be crucial for the Oakland Raiders defensive success..
The Raiders will likely employ some 3-4 looks but regardless of the front, Brayton will be an integral figure for first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Brayton epitomized the idea of baptism by fire last season as he was one of two players Oakland selected in the first round. In fact, he was one of only two defensive players to start every game at the same position last season, manning the right defensive end spot in each game. He totaled 61 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Brayton did some good things and, as one might expect from rookies, some not-so-good things. Injuries caused veterans Trace Armstrong, John Parrella and Dana Stubblefield to miss significant chunks of time. The lack of action by those players meant Brayton would have to mature that much quicker.
Having the reputation of being a nonstop hustler also worked against him at times last season because opponents used his aggressiveness against him for much of the season. Brayton was been a frequent target for misdirection and cutback runs. By late in the season, he appeared to learn to maintain that aggressiveness while not over-committing to one side or the other while learning more nuances of the game.
Keep in mind; opponents are not going to be shy about testing a rookie.
Going into last season, the perception was that the Raiders were a veteran team and youngsters would have little chance to contribute. Defensive end was an unsettled position with Armstrong and Tony Bryant coming off season ending injuries in 2002. The Raiders released Bryant before training camp began. The Raiders, however, made Brayton a starter from Day One after an impressive preseason and are banking on him to keep getting better.