Raiders eye Ellis as every-down player

Greg Ellis developed into one of the league's premiere pass-rush specialists over the last two seasons while playing outside linebacker in Dallas. Now with Oakland, Ellis is moving back to defensive end where the team hopes he can return to being an every-down player.

Ellis joined his new teammates at practice this week for the first time since signing a three-year contract with the Raiders late Monday night and took the majority of reps with the starting defense at left defensive end.

That's the same position manned by two-time Pro Bowl pick Derrick Burgess, who did not attend Wednesday's workout and has skipped all of Oakland's offseason practices except for the three-day mandatory minicamp in May.

With Burgess being the subject of trade talks with New England, the natural reaction was to assume the Raiders are prepping Ellis to take over the starting job on the left side but head coach Tom Cable insists that the two situations aren't related.

"I don't think it has anything to do with it at this point," Cable said. "This was just, let's make our team better and here's the next opportunity to do that."

Believe that or not, the Raiders are moving forward whether Burgess is here or not and Ellis is the most logical choice to replace him if Oakland indeed pulls the trigger and makes a trade.

And rather than using him as pass-rush specialist as the Cowboys did the last two years in their 3-4 system, the Raiders hope Ellis can play every down in their 4-3 front.

"I think he can be," Cable said. "You look a the film and he's been doing that, albeit in a different position, this is a guy you would rely on to come in and compete to be a starter and all that. He's got so much left in terms of where he's at physically, in terms of his body, his production, so again, just a positive for our team."

Ellis didn't talk to the media on Wednesday – he was escorted off the field by a member of the Raiders' public relations staff – and Thursday's workout is closed to the media, so just exactly how he feels about the move back to defensive end is uncertain.

His numbers, however, suggest the Raiders have significantly improved their pass rush. Over the past two seasons Ellis recorded 20 ½ sacks as a part-time player and has had 7 ½ sacks or more in seven of his 11 NFL seasons. Oakland, by comparison, had just 32 as a team in 2009.

"What we're doing defensively, it fits him," Cable said. "He started out as a 4-3 end and became an outside backer in a 3-4 and now he's in a 4-3. It makes our team better. I said from the very beginning we'd try to do that, when possible, when it presented itself, so it's a good deal for us."

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