Recently, newty acquired Raiders DE/LB Dave Tollefson conducted a conference call with reporters regarding his signing with the team. He was very excited and upbeat and looked forward to playing for the man who helped draft him, Reggie McKenzie, and his hometown team the Raiders.
"There's a debt there that I feel like I never really got to repay after leaving. It's kind of funny how life works.
Tollefson feels as though the Raiders were the team that gave him a chance to succeed and continue his career rather than languish on Green Bay's practice squad after being drafted in 2006. Now, after having won two Super Bowls as a member of the New York Giants, Tollefson has returned home to the Raiders.
Tollefson feels so strongly about this team that he turned down offers from both Green Bay and Tennessee, places where he may have had more opportunity for immediate success. He is accustomed to excellence, as the Giants during his time there have been a ferocious and feared defense. In order to break the defensive rotation along such stalwarts as Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka, Tollefson had to be pretty darn good.
Last year the Raiders started off with a fairly decent defensive line, but injuries took their toll, particularly in the case of Matt Shaughnessy whom I felt was exhibiting the finest play of anyone in the defensive line rotation. Once he went down, the line was in shambles and could neither rush the passer or contain opposing rushers consistently. Shaughnessy should be fine for the upcoming season, but adding a player of Tollefson's caliber adds that much more depth to a position that has been a strength of late for the Raiders.
"Being a jack-of-all-trades is what I've been able to hang my hat on," Tollefson said. "They haven't promised me anything, which is what I want. That's not the style of player I am. There's an opportunity to play, whether that's starting or a backup, a rush guy or a guy that can play the edge in the run. It's going to be a little bit of everything, which is what I love to do."
Tollefson may also play outside linebacker, and this versatility should make it all the easier for the Raiders to implement some 3-4 concepts if they so wish. Tollefson, Aaron Curry, and Philip Wheeler all should be able to play that hybrid linebacker/end role a la Terrell Suggs. Giving an offense multiple looks will be an important factor in the Raiders' defensive success this season, particularly considering they will have to play Peyton Manning twice.
Tollefson prides himself as a player on being able to diagnose and stop the run, which is something the Raiders have lacked prowess in for several years. He brings a strong work ethic and a hard-nosed attitude to this defense, which is something it sorely needs. His presence will enable Dennis Allen and Jason Tarver to get the most out of their defensive schemes.