Season review -- Raiders DL

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Season review -- Raiders DL

Coming off a season in which the Raiders had 47 sacks, 29 12 of which were from the front four, much was expected of Oakland's defensive line in 2011. Much more. But after finishing tied for second in sacks, the Raiders fell into a tie for 15th with 39 sacks, 22 of which came from the D-line. Sure, injuries played a major part, as did age and ineffectiveness. But those same old issues against the run defense -- the Raiders finished 27th against the run, giving up 136.1 yards per game on the ground -- popped up once again. And while the defense as a whole needs to be rebuilt, Mike Waufle's unit needs the least amount of tweaking. Still, there are rumblings of the Raiders switching to a 3-4 base alignment next season. That would require major construction as most of the Raiders' talent on the defensive side of the ball is in the front four.
Grade: DDEFENSIVE LINELamarr Houston -- More a run stuffer on the end than a pass rusher, Houston's sack total went down from five as a rookie to one this past season. Still, his tackles rose from 40 to 51, which was the most tackles among the down linemen. And Houston added an interception of Houston's Matt Schaub for good measure. The former second-round draft pick has a specific role on the left side, even if it seemed he would disappear at times.Richard Seymour -- The spiritual leader of not only the D-line but the entire team, Seymour got off to a hot start but niggling injuries slowed him down the stretch. In the last eight games of the season, he had a total of five tackles, and five clean sheets. His 28 tackles were the second-fewest of his career, but his six sacks were the second-highest single-season total of his career. He was named the AFC's special teams player of the week after blocking two field goals at Kansas City on Dec. 24. On the other end of the spectrum, his two personal fouls against his old New England Patriots teammates cost the Raiders dearly. It was a strange season for Seymour, who, nonetheless, was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro. Seymour turned 32 on Oct. 6 and with his knees starting to ache with more frequency, he enters the final year of his two-year, 30-million contract.Tommy Kelly -- He had a career-high, and team-leading, 7 12 sacks, his first career interception, a career-most five passes defensed, forced two fumbles, recovered one fumble and had 41 tackles. For all of that, Kelly was rewarded with being named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. Really, a case could be made that he deserved the trip to Hawaii more than Seymour. But Kelly has long credited Seymour with helping his development since signing that massive seven-year, 50.5-million contract prior to the 2008 season, and before Seymour's arrival a year later. Kelly dropping 30-plus pounds prior top 2010 has also helped him become one of the more disruptive DT's in the AFC. But should the Raiders switch to a 3-4 defense, does he have it in him to move to nose tackle?Desmond Bryant -- The undrafted Ivy Leaguer stepped up big when Matt Shaughnessy was lost for the season after Week 3. Bryant, a tackle by trade, started 11 games at right end, playing in all 16 games, and also spelled Kelly and Seymour when the situation called for it. The Harvard product's five sacks, including two at Minnesota on Nov. 10, were a career high, as were his 35 tackles.Jarvis Moss -- The former first-round draft choice of Denver has seemingly found a home in Oakland. A strained hamstring slowed him in the middle of the season, though, as he missed the Chicago and Miami games. But what Broncos QB Tim Tebow did to him, and the rest of the D-line, really, probably hurt more. The slender Moss is more pass-rusher than run-stopper and he had 1 12 sacks with 16 tackles.Trevor Scott -- Quite simply, he has not been the same since blowing out his knee at Pittsburgh last season. And that's a shame. Scott is a situational pass rusher who should be applauded for playing in every game this past season. After wracking up a combined 13 12 sacks his first three seasons, Scott was held without a sack in 2011. His seven tackles were a career low as he enters free agency.John Henderson -- The Raiders' designated "run-stopper" at tackle, Henderson was consistent in his second year with the Raiders. Until a knee injury kept him out of the final three games of the season. His last sack came on Nov. 22, 2009, when he was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seven of the 6-feet-7, 335-pound Henderson's 36 tackles this past season came in one game, against Miami. He just turned 33 and while he still has a year left on his two-year, 8-million deal (with 1.5 million guaranteed for 2012), his knees are a major question going forward. Could he play nose tackle on a consistent basis if the Raiders switch to a 3-4 base defense?Mason Brodine -- Promoted from the practice squad prior to the Detroit game, Brodine appeared on special teams in two games and was inactive for the season finale against San Diego.Matt Shaughnessy -- The loss of Shaughnessy to a season-ending shoulder injury after just three games hindered the Raiders to no end and really, there's no describing just how much his being on Injured Reserve hurt the Raiders' defensive efforts. A healthy Shaughnessy helps not only the pass rush, but the pass defense. We'll never know just how big his injury was to the total team defense's woes in 2012.

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

Injury report: Joseph out, Latham questionable for Raiders vs Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph hurt his toe in Sunday’s victory over Buffalo, and was still in pain early the next week.

That gave him virtually no shot to play Kansas City on Thursday night with a short week to recover. The Raiders made his omission official on Wednesday, and ruled the first-round pick out of the AFC West clash at Arrowhead Stadium on their official injury report.

Veteran Nate Allen will take his place in the starting lineup. He played well in Joseph’s stead against the Bills, and has the versatility to play back or closer to the line of scrimmage as Joseph did.

The Raiders defense is still ailing on the interior, with defensive tackle Stacy McGee (ankle) ruled out of his second straight contest.

There is slightly better news for Darius Latham, who was deemed questionable after missing two light practices but returning in time for limited work on Wednesday. Getting him back would help a thinned rotation that heavily features Denico Autry, Dan Williams and Jihad Ward, who has struggled some of late.

The Chiefs have a healthy team despite the short week. Receiver Jeremy Maclin will return from a groin injury. Edge rusher Tamba Hali will play despite limted practice work, and defensive tackle Dontari Poe is questionable with a back issue.

Raiders Status Report
Doubtful

LB Shilique Calhoun (knee), S Karl Joseph (toe), DT Stacy McGee (ankle) Questionable
DT Darius Latham (ankle), LG Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Cory James (shoulder)

Chiefs Status Report

Questionable
DT Dontari Poe (back), DE Kendall Reyes (knee)

NOTE: Kansas City’s WR Jeremy Maclin, OLB Tamba Hali and CB Phillip Gaines did not receive an injury designation, meaning they will play.

 

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

Mack, Irvin feed off each other, form dynamic duo in Raiders pass rush

The Buffalo Bills were running right through the Oakland Raiders early in Sunday’s contest, a never-ending assault that took its toll on defenders in silver and black.

That was the case for the most optimistic, steadfast member of that unit.

“We were giving up big plays, and I was frustrated,” star edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “Actually, I was pissed off.”

Bruce Irvin sensed a disturbance in the force. The veteran pass rusher knew how to fix it.  A little pep talk would get Mack going again.

“We feed off each other’s energy. … That dude pulls me up. I was feeling a little down towards the middle of the game, and he was like, ‘Come on. We need you. Come on. Let’s go. He pulled me up and kept pushing.”

That wasn’t the turning point in yet another comeback win. It wasn’t the only reason why defense locked Buffalo down during a run of 29 unanswered points.

It showed how strong a friendship Mack and Irvin have formed since the spring, one that helps get the best out of the other. Bonds formed from insatiable work ethic, one evident even in the offseason program.

“We’re both so hungry to be great that it just brought us together,” Irvin said. “When I got here, we talked right away. Khalil and (quarterback Derek Carr) were the first two guys I sat down with, and I told them I was coming over to play with Khalil, to help turn this thing around and become one of the top units in the league. Khalil and I just bonded quickly, and it was like we had been friends forever. It’s like whole thing was meant to be.”

It has turned out to be a productive pairing. There are 15 sacks, 94 other quarterback pressures and eight forced fumbles between Irvin and Mack this season.

Mack has the bulk of those numbers, especially during a second-half run where he has been outright dominant and jumped into the conversation for defensive player of the year. Mack has been involved in four turnovers the last two games, including game-sealing strip sacks while recovering his own fumble in consecutive weeks.

“You all don’t want to talk to Robin,” Irvin quipped. “Batman’s right over there.”

Irvin has used that line after two home victories in a row. The fifth-year pro is more than Mack’s sidekick. He’s on a roll himself, with sacks in three straight games. He uses speed and agility to create pressure off the strongside edge, dealing with left tackles on a consistent basis.

“I’m in a good groove right now,” Irvin said. “Mentality, physically, I’m in a very good place right now. It’s really showing on the field these past couple weeks.”

Irvin has been a productive defender either making plays on his side or driving traffic back towards Mack. It works both ways, with Mack drawing significant attention that often leaves Irvin in more favorable matchups.

The combination has been impactful, especially on a defense that doesn’t’ get pressure from other sources. They’ve been productive in the clutch as well, with six sacks coming in the fourth quarter. Mack has big plays the last two weeks, and Irvin has a big sack late in a victory over Houston in Mexico City.

The Raiders defense is improving, and having Irvin rushing strong recently helps Mack and the entire Raiders defense.

“He’s always been in a good groove, but there are things going well for this defense,” Mack said. “I’m on the other side, and you have coverage going well. (Opponents) try to do all the chipping and those things that play a factor in doing what we do. The fact that he’s rolling right now is not a surprise.”