Is Tyrell Adams the man at middle linebacker for the Raiders?

Despite not playing a defensive snap last season, linebacker Tyrell Adams could challenge for a starting role in 2017. Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders could have as many as three new starters in the defensive front seven when the NFL season opens. Here’s a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Derek Carr): MVP awards and Lombardi Trophies are in this rising star’s future -- at least, that’s what the Raiders are banking on with that record five-year, $125 million contract extension.

Tailback (Marshawn Lynch): Not only does he have the top-selling NFL jersey in the 10 most western states of the country, but he is also taking over a revered soul food eatery near his Oakland, California, home. All is calm with Beast Mode.

Fullback (Jamize Olawale): Flash back to his 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in Mexico City, and you see why he is a hybrid.

Wide receiver (Amari Cooper): He showed up to offseason workouts looking noticeably bigger and stronger without losing any of his footwork in route running or speed.

Wide receiver (Michael Crabtree): Again, his post-TD celebration was an homage to Kenny Powers’ finger sniff, not a throat slash. So there.

Tight end (Jared Cook): With the ESPY for NFL play of the year in his pocket -- his game-turning 35-yard sideline grab for the Green Bay Packers at the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs -- Cook said he sees a little of Aaron Rodgers in Carr.

Left tackle (Donald Penn): Motivation? Penn, who is entering his 11th season after the best year of his career and second Pro Bowl honor, is still haunted by the lone sack he surrendered -- the one that ended with Carr’s broken leg.

Left guard (Kelechi Osemele): The All-Pro had an exciting offseason by traveling the globe, bungee jumping, jumping through fire, etc. Now he's back to his other job as a short-order breakfast cook and pancaking defensive linemen.

Center (Rodney Hudson): This is a Pro Bowler coming into his own as the brains on the brawny offensive line.

Right guard (Gabe Jackson): He made out nicely with a five-year, $56 million contract extension this offseason.

Right tackle (Marshall Newhouse): A free-agent acquisition joining his fourth team in five seasons, Newhouse ran with the first-team offense in offseason workouts.


Defensive end (Mario Edwards Jr.): A second-round pick in 2015, Edwards played just two games last season due to injury, but the Raiders are counting on him to be the yin to Khalil Mack’s yang.

Defensive tackle (Treyvon Hester): A surprise in the wings here? Perhaps, but the seventh-round draft pick was running with the starters in minicamp. Don’t sleep on Darius Latham and rookie third-rounder Eddie Vanderdoes, though.

Nose tackle (Justin Ellis): “Jelly,” who is entering his fourth NFL season, is the most seasoned interior defensive lineman on the roster since the Raiders parted ways with Dan Williams in the spring.

Defensive end (Khalil Mack): The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year should now start to get those holding calls that veterans receive from refs, right?

Weakside linebacker (Cory James): Jelani Jenkins would seem to be the guy here after he was signed as a free agent, but James saw a lot of first-team reps this offseason.

Middle linebacker (Tyrell Adams): Who? A practice squad grad who did not play a single snap on defense in any of his six games, Adams ran with the starters in OTAs and minicamp. Might Oakland, which drafted Marquel Lee in the fifth round, still be interested in the likes of Perry Riley Jr., Rey Maualuga or Zach Orr? Plus, Ben Heeney is healthy again.

Strongside linebacker (Bruce Irvin): Self-proclaimed "Robin" to Mack’s "Batman," Irvin figures to be more of a pass-rushing presence with more talent around him after he forced a career-high six fumbles last season and had seven sacks.

Cornerback (David Amerson): A big-money contract last summer preceded an up-and-down season, though he was the Raiders’ best cornerback. He had two interceptions, half as many as the season before.

Cornerback (Sean Smith): Benched in his Raiders debut at New Orleans, Smith rebounded and played hurt after a shoulder injury at Tampa Bay. His two interceptions matched a career high, but beware the footsteps of first-round pick Gareon Conley.

Strong safety (Karl Joseph): The undersized first-round pick was beaten up at times -- he missed four games due to injury -- but good things usually happened when he was on the field, as evidenced by his 60 tackles, an interception and six passes defensed.

Free safety (Reggie Nelson): Is the vet getting better with age? He is coming off his second straight Pro Bowl in his 10th season, and his five interceptions led Oakland. His tutoring of second-rounder Obi Melifonwu also will be key.

Special teams

Kicker (Sebastian Janikowski): The franchise’s first-round draft pick in 2000 is also its all-time leading scorer, with 1,799 points. He plans on playing until they kick him out.

Punter (Marquette King): The most fit punter in the league doubles as one of the NFL’s most outrageous social media follows, though he did tweak teammates by recreating Aqib Talib’s chain-snatching moment with Crabtree.

Long-snapper (Jon Condo): Condo is as solid as they come in an underrated job description, or have you forgotten his Pro Bowl appearance in 2009?

Kick returner (Cordarrelle Patterson): The two-time All-Pro returner has returned five kicks for touchdowns in his four-year career. Oakland last returned a kick for a TD in 2011, courtesy of Jacoby Ford.

Punt returner (Jalen Richard): Mighty Mite averaged 9.0 yards on 34 punt returns as an undrafted rookie last season and had a 47-yard return at the Baltimore Ravens.