Perhaps no other position on the Oakland Raiders will look so different in 2004 and, from their perspective, different means better. This spot goes from scary in a Raiders sense to scary from an opponent's viewpoint. Oakland, whose run defense allowed 156 yards rushing per game, signed Ted Washington (New England) and Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay) as free agents to fortify the Raiders defense.
The Raiders are expected to play more 3-4 fronts to go along with their base 4-3. In the former alignment, the 375-pound (well, listed weight) Washington, would play directly over the center and Sapp would line up at end. In the 4-3, both would line up as tackles playing a "3-technique."
Washington (36) and Sapp (31) are both in the twilight of their career but the Raiders think they still have something to offer. Plus, something had to be done after watching running lanes open up like a hospitality suite.
In addition, this spot could be even stronger if John Parrella is fully recovered from a groin injury that limited him to just five games last season. Parrella, like Sapp, is a tackle by trade but could also play end in the 3-4 alignment. Despite his age, 34, the Raiders do not seem overly concerned with Parrella's injury since it was the first one of his career serious enough to put him on the sideline. Parrella is a high energy player who gives maximum effort on every down.
Chris Cooper, who enters his fourth season, is a hybrid player capable of playing either end or tackle.