Denver Broncos: Lamarr Houston

Top free-agent roundup: AFC West

March, 10, 2014
The AFC West produced three playoff teams and the eventual AFC title winner in the Denver Broncos, so it should come as no surprise that many top free agents come from the division. Oakland Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams break down the top 15:

1. Branden Albert, Chiefs offensive tackle: Kansas City won’t franchise him this year. Albert will get a nice contract elsewhere.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos cornerback: He’s not yet 30 and still a top-tier athlete.

3. Eric Decker, Broncos wide receiver: Productive in scoring zone, will be one of the biggest wide receivers on open market, but rarely faced opponents’ top cornerback in Broncos offense.

4. Lamarr Houston, Raiders defensive end: Better suited to the left side because he’s not the prototypical speed-rusher.

5. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos running back: Has had multiple knee surgeries, including one on a torn ACL in 2011, but he runs with passion, is solid in pass protection and a productive receiver.

6. Jared Veldheer, Raiders offensive tackle: Didn’t have a very good season in 2013 but would attract some attention as a free agent.

7. Geoff Schwartz, Chiefs guard: Was a free-agent find for Kansas City last season. Can play right tackle if needed.

8. Jon Asamoah, Chiefs guard: A better pass-protector than run-blocker. He will be only 26 in July.

9. Shaun Phillips, Broncos linebacker: He’ll be 33 in May but showed last season that he can still be an effective situational pass-rusher.

10. Zane Beadles, Broncos guard: For a movement-based front, he’s a smart, durable option who played in every game while with Denver.

11. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner: Hasn’t had a huge impact on the offense in Kansas City, but he will be only 26 in August.

12. Robert Ayers, Broncos defensive end: Had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s a late bloomer.

13. Tyson Jackson, Chiefs defensive end: Like Ayers, he had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s figuring it out as well.

14. Tracy Porter, Raiders cornerback: He’s versatile enough to cover the slot receiver, and he had one of his better seasons in 2013.

15. Kendrick Lewis, Chiefs safety: He’s only 25 but was a better player earlier in his career. He hasn’t been the same since a shoulder injury in 2012.

Broncos-Raiders matchup of the day

September, 21, 2013
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.