Thursday, July 17, 2008

Breakout Player: DT Tommy Kelly (Raiders)

There are $50.5 million reasons why DT Tommy Kelly will need to have a breakout season in 2008. The 6'6'' 300 pound defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders signed a 7-year contract with at least $18.125 million in guarantees. That's a lot of money for a player that only played 7 games in 2007, recording 30 tackles and 1 sack before suffering a season ending knee injury (torn ACL) in Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans.

Did I mention that this new contract was the largest contract given to a defensive tackle, ever?

Kelly is slated to start this season in place of the recently retired DT Warren Sapp. He can play any position on the defensive line but will best be used in the three technique spot in the Raiders 4-3 defense. He moves extremely quick for a player of his size but has a difficult time against the run. He has under performed in his first three seasons but is expected to have a huge impact on an improved defense.

What are some factors that will lead Kelly to having a breakout season in 2008?

1) Pressure Kelly has to have a big season. He is taking over for a future Hall of Fame player in Sapp and will be making way more money than the 8-time Pro Bowler. Despite paying him the contract, Oakland still has fellow starter DT Terdell Sands, DT Gerald Warren, and newly signed free agent DT William Joseph (Giants) to contend with. Kelly is recovering from a torn ACL and will need to 100% when training camps hits or else look for these other veterans to step in and play well.

2) Raiders Defense Despite having one of the leagues worst run defense (gave up an average 145.9 yards/game), they finished as one of the best defenses against the pass (195.8 yards/game avg). There will be much improvement in the secondary with the additions of CB DeAngelo Hall (Falcons) and FS Gibril Wilson (Giants). Combine that with stud linebackers Kirk Morrison and and Thomas Howard, the Raiders will have a lot of support playing behind Kelly this season.

3) Al Davis If team owner Al Davis felt good about paying Kelly that unprecedented amount of money, based on potential alone, then expect Kelly to have a lot of support from management and be put in a position to succeed.

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