ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With left tackle Ryan Clady on injured reserve, the Broncos certainly have some adjustments to make up front in the weeks and month ahead, beginning with Monday night's game against Oakland.
And with Clady’s replacement, Chris Clark, now set to make his first career start at tackle -- he started six games in 2011 for the Broncos as an extra tight end when they went to a read-option look on offense -- he will find a little different look in the Raiders' defense. That’s because in addition to the nine new defensive starters the team has sported this season, the Raiders have chosen to go big at what is traditionally a speed-first spot on defense.
Coach Dennis Allen, a former Broncos defensive coordinator, and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver have elected to put Colorado Springs native Lamarr Houston at right defensive end. And the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder doesn’t fit the mold of the usual edge rusher.
Houston played the power end -- the left defensive end, who is traditionally across from the right tackle and tight end -- last season, but Allen likes Houston’s combination of strength as well as quickness for a bigger player (he was an All-American prep running back). Houston is consistently good with his handwork and often keeps offensive linemen from locking on.
The Raiders also put a little smaller player -- the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Jason Hunter (a former Bronco) -- at the power end spot, opposite of Houston. Allen likes Hunter’s consistency in holding the edge in the run game. To put Houston and Hunter in the spots where he believed their skills best fit the defense, the Raiders have put the two in positions opposite of where many would expect them to be because of their body types.
Houston looks more like a power end, and Hunter looks more like a rush end. But that’s not the way the Raiders play them. What it means for Clark is he will essentially be wrestling with a player in Houston with the strength and upfield power of a defensive tackle. The 305-pound Clark won't necessarily have the size and strength advantage as he tries to anchor to keep Houston from advancing up the field.
The Broncos could give Clark some help with a tight end to that side and allow right tackle Orlando Franklin to work in one-on-one situations with Hunter, something the two have done many times in previous Broncos training camps and practices.
The Raiders do bring the pressure from other spots in the formation -- five of their nine sacks this season are by defensive backs (3.5 from safeties, 1.5 from cornerback Tracy Porter) -- so the Broncos linemen will have to play with awareness to pass off some rushers to those next to them and pick up the late arrivals. But it all starts with Houston and Hunter forcing the issue from the two end spots.