For a one season (2010), Matt Shaughnessy was the Raiders best pass rusher from the defensive end position. But he could never seem to duplicate the production he had that season and many saw his standout play more a product of the double teams the man to his left, Richard Seymour, commanded.
The Raiders knew they needed to at very least add a situational pass rusher to team up with Shaughnessy at the right end spot, so they signed veteran defensive end, Andre Carter. The 12-year defensive end was coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Patriots but he was also coming off an injury and it had him go unsigned in the off-season.
The Raiders signed him midseason even though he wasn't completely back to 100%. By the last quarter of the season, he was back in full form and his pass rush abilities added a much needed spark to the defensive line. The Raiders then let Shaughnessy sign with the Cardinals and brought back Carter for another season as a clear upgrade at the position.
Also making a case for himself last season was Lamarr Houston who went from being a DE/DT hybrid type to being the most athletic defensive lineman on this team. He had cut 20 pounds from his frame last off-season and really came into his own. He returns with the confidence of the coaching staff and the fear of opposing offensive linemen to be the leader of this group.
In 2012, the free agent class was frugal to say the least. One of their best signings was supposed to be former two-time Super Bowl winning defensive end, Dave Tollefson. The now 32-year old proved to be completely ineffective and the team released him this off-season.
Tollefson has been replaced by former Denver Bronco, Jason Hunter who is three years younger and is more of a pure defensive end. It is hard to say how much of an impact this situational pass rusher will have but improving upon Tollefson's 7 combined tackles and 0.5 sacks in 2012 won't be difficult.
Second-year defensive end Jack Crawford returns with a season under his belt. He was still considered a raw product when the Raiders drafted him in round five of the 2012 draft. He and rookie David Bass will add some much needed competition to the rotation.
This position is still not very strong but it is expected to improve from last season which had the Raiders with the second worst pass rush in the NFL.
No question that the DL went from being a strength just a few years ago to a major liability. They may surprise, nobody saw Brandon Myers having the season he had last year, but we need to figure out who we have that is worth building around, then beef up the rest of the line over the next year or two.
The ends, particularly Houston, will suffer this year. When a team plans to play us they will look at the DL and double Houston. No one else will warrant or need that, and I feel like they will be owned. Our best hope is that they keep the OL away from the LBs and they play to their expectations or better.
Good thing! Houston will suck this year and reduce his price tag for a new contract :).