The Oakland Raiders struggled to generate a consistent and effective pass rush in 2012. This offseason the team made moves in an attempt to improve the product. During training camp at the end of July, several players will have the opportunity to compete and earn playing time.
Lamarr Houston returns for the 2013 season coming off a standout performance. He was arguably the Raiders' best defensive player a season ago. His stats will not blow anyone away, but he tied for the team lead in sacks with four and led the team with nine tackles for loss. His hustle and effort are where Houston shined. In week four, Denver wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas broke loose for a sure touchdown, but fumbled off his leg. Houston, from his defensive end position, hustled more than 60 yards down the field to make the recovery. This play epitomizes Houston's value and commitment. He is a surefire starter.
After Houston things become blurred. Andre Carter returned to the Raiders this offseason. The 13 year veteran played 12 games for the team last season coming back from a quad injury. He feels healthier this offseason, but his age and the beating of 13 years as a defensive end in the NFL are cause for concern. He still can be effective as a pass rusher because of his experience, but is more of a rotational player now.
Last season the Raiders drafted Jack Crawford in the fifth round. He only appeared in four games as he battled a foot injury. Training camp will be very important for Crawford as the Raiders are counting on him for a bigger role in 2013.
The Raiders began their free agency period by acquiring Jason Hunter. He has not played since he tore his triceps in 2011. Prior to the injury, he started 14 games for the Denver Broncos including 12 in 2010. He has 11 career sacks as a hybrid linebacker, defensive end. He reunites with Raiders' head coach Dennis Allen, who was his defensive coordinator in Denver.
During the 2013 NFL Draft, the Raiders spent a seventh round selection of David Bass of Missouri Western. Despite being a small school product, Bass dominated the competition. He amassed 39.5 career sacks and made 50 consecutive starts. At 6-4, 260 pounds he has the size to play in the league. Bass will get a chance to compete for a role as a rotational defensive end.
Defensive end is a very interesting position for the Raiders. So many of the players are coming off injuries that it is difficult to project how well they can perform. Houston will be the anchor and the rest of the players will have to find ways to contribute in the rotation. Last season the Raiders only accounted for 25 sacks which must improve to better the defense as a whole.
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