At this point in franchise history, the Oakland Raiders aren’t concerned about continuity.
Lamarr Houston is the only starting defensive lineman the Raiders chose to carry over from the 2012 unit, and for good reason. A three-year NFL veteran and 2010 second-round pick, Houston is set to emerge as a star for the Raiders this upcoming season.
Instead of assuming that his role with the Raiders was safe, though, Houston spent the entire offseason preparing for a big year in Oakland. He did extensive MMA training, working on his body control and ability to manipulate opponents with leverage. While other players around the league were enjoying their extended vacations, Houston was setting himself up for a whole new level of success.
This upcoming season, Houston will play right defensive end as the Raiders’ premier pass rusher. For the past three seasons, he manned the left side – the position typically given to the better run defender. With Matt Shaughnessy no longer on the team, Houston will have the opportunity to be the go-to sack artist in Oakland.
Throughout the 2012 campaign, Houston was a force when rushing the passer. Although he managed only five sacks (tied for the most on the team), he totaled 54 pressures on the season while putting up the No. 15 pass rusher rating in the NFL among 43 eligible players, according to Pro Football Focus. With a revamped defensive line in place, Houston should be able to turn some of his pressures (35 in 2012) into sacks this upcoming season.
Heading into 2013, Houston is the leader of a rebuild Raiders defensive line instead of a young stud surrounded by aging, overpaid talent. After focusing on honing his technique following his switch to the right side, he’s embraced his new role and shouldn’t have any trouble dominating opponents all season long.
Expect big things this season from Houston, who could emerge as a top-tier defensive end when all is said and done.