ALAMEDA, Calif. – How different will the Oakland Raiders' defense look Sunday?
Consider: Besides there being nine new starters, Lamarr Houston, who is making the switch from left defensive end to the right side, will be the only Raiders defensive player who had a sack last season with Oakland.
Yes, the Raiders had 25 sacks as a team last year, which ranked 31st in the NFL, and Houston tied for the team lead with four. Linebacker Miles Burris, who is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, added 1.5 sacks. And that’s it.
“Lamarr was a guy that, going into this season, we kind of pegged as a guy that we wanted to be a leader for this team,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “He began to take a little bit of that role at the end of last year, and I think he’s continued to improve in that regard as we’ve gone through the offseason and training camp.
“I think he’ll continue to develop as a leader for this football team as we go forward.”
Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Houston immediately made a mark with numerous training camp scraps. But he seemed soft-spoken off the field.
“When I was younger, I had (Richard) Seymour and Tommy (Kelly) here, so I thought I was going to be ‘little brother’ forever,” Houston said with a roaring laugh. “Nah, but as the years have gone by, I could see myself being a captain now. A lot of my teammates respect me and it means a lot to me -- and I’m going to do the best I can to fulfill this role for this team.”
So what, exactly, does being tabbed a captain mean to Houston?
“It means it’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of respect,” he said. “It’s a big role to play. It means you’re a leader. You basically represent the team when you’re a captain, so it’s a great honor. But it’s more about the team.”
And still, there are questions about Houston’s skill set, and how it translates to the more pass-rush-emphasized right side.
At 6-feet-3, 300 pounds, Houston is not your stereotypical edge rusher, nor is he a bull-rusher.
“To be honest, I think my skill set fits perfect,” he said. “Pass-rushing is about technique; it’s not about who’s the fastest or who’s the strongest. I’ve been working on that a lot this offseason and it’s been showing up in this preseason a little bit and in training camp, so I’m just going to try and build on that and do whatever I can to get better at playing on that right end.”