Raiders put pass-rush trust in Houston

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
6:43
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- If it seemed like the Raiders were not addressing their defensive line this offseason in the wake of parting ways with Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy, there was a reason.

Oakland was about to go all in with defensive end Lamarr Houston and move him from the left side to the right.

[+] EnlargeLamarr Houston
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsLamarr Houston has rewarded the Raiders, who trusted him to anchor their pass rush.
Two games into the season and he’s been more than a disruptive force, aside from his one sack, 12 quarterback hurries and three quarterback hits, per Pro Football Focus.

“We thought last year Lamarr was probably our best defensive player,” said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. “So we felt good that Lamarr could provide some kind of pass rush. Now, will he be that dominant Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, one of those kind of guys? We didn’t have that in mind, but we thought he could be a disruptive force for our defense.

“We just wanted to fill in some good pieces around and just complement the defense to where we can execute some things.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Houston is the third-rated right defensive end in a 4-3 formation when it comes to pass-rushing productivity.

Heading into Denver, he will face a career backup in fourth-year pro Chris Clark after three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury.

“I wish Clady a speedy recovery,” said Houston, who grew up in Colorado Springs after moving there from Sacramento when he was 5 years old.

“I train with him in the offseason, so I wish him nothing but the best. The backup Clark guy, he’s an athletic tackle. He has really good feet. He can keep up with anybody, small, big or fast. I have to get in there and watch some more tape on him and see what he’s doing and how he likes to play.”

The Raiders are already impressed with Houston’s play in his transition thus far. So much that McKenzie acknowledged he has been in talks with Houston’s agent about a contract extension. Houston, the Raiders’ second-round draft pick in 2010 out of Texas, is in the final year of his rookie contract.

“We’ll see how that works out,” McKenzie said.

Finances precluded McKenzie from going after an established pass-rusher this past offseason, so the Raiders returned only 5.5 of their 25 sacks from a year ago, with Houston having four and linebacker Miles Burris contributing 1.5, though Burris is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

“Now, if I had a chance to get a guaranteed 15-sack guy, yeah,” McKenzie said. “Whether I had the resources to get that done or not, probably not. But we felt good about Lamarr.”

Even if Houston, who will be the only returning starter on defense to play Monday in Denver, is still learning the nuances of the right side on the job.

“I don’t think I’m playing as well as I should be playing,” he said. “There’s a lot of mistakes I’ve been making that have to be corrected. That’s why we’re here, working and trying to get better. I think I have improved somewhat in that area, but there’s a lot of improvement for me to do.”

Like what, exactly?

“I think there’s a couple of things I have to work on mechanics wise, our D-line has to work on mechanics wise,” Houston said. “We have to execute how we want the pocket to look like. We have to keep working this week and make improvements for us as a line as a whole with our rush game to make a difference on Monday.”

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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