For the short time LB Bill Romanowski played for the Raiders he made a huge difference to the personality and intensity of the defense. Lets not kid ourselves, the defense of the 2002 Raiders was very average. The mix of youth (Eric Barton, Napoleon Harris) and veteran smarts and toughness (Romo, R. Woodson) was adequate but did not dominate games. The incredible efficiency and effectiveness of the offense covered many defensive blemishes. The defense though did come through when it needed to thanks in large part to Romanowski.
Romo lifted the play of those around him and sent very clear messages to opposing offenses that the Raiders could challenge and punish. Most clear examples were presented to division rivals, the Denver Broncos. QB Brian Griese was KOed, TE Shannon Sharpe's elbow separated like a chicken wing.
I write this post with one thought in mind. The 2005 version of the Raider defense will need a difference maker, an intimidator. Another year under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan should make a big difference but who will step up to be the Difference Maker? Is it an existing player? I'm sure Warren Sapp will be motivated to improve his performance. Will it be a Free Agent acquisition? Will it be a Draft Pick? The next few months will prove interesting.