Allen: 'We're going to be a mentally tough football team'
The Raiders tallied just 25 sacks last season, second worst in the NFL. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
NAPA -- The Raiders didn’t sign a big-name pass rusher to start opposite defensive end Lamarr Houston.
Wanted to. Just couldn’t afford it.
Salary-cap constraints handcuffed general manager Reggie McKenzie, who had too many needs to blow his allowance on a big-ticket item.
He could've drafted one, but went with cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round.
McKenzie instead added value options with different strengths, hoping two talents provide solid production from one end spot. He inked Jason Hunter for $840,000 and re-signed Andre Carter for $1 million more to accomplish that feat.
“I really like both of those veteran players,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “I think both of them understand what it takes to play this game, and there will be a role for both of those guys on this football team.”
Hunter is a blue-collar worker who excels at stopping the run, while Carter is a savvy pass rusher with double-digit sacks in four seasons.
Allen won’t implement a straight platoon. Carter will be active primarily on passing downs and in the nickel package, but he’ll spell both end spots, including Houston at times.
Hunter can get after the quarterback, but he’s at his best as an edge setter against the run. It’s a thankless job, but Hunter enjoys doing it.
“Setting an edge is all about knocking that tackle back and collapsing that line of scrimmage,” Hunter said. “It prevents the running back from getting to the outside, forces him back in and allows someone else to make a play. Even though it doesn’t pad your stats or anything, I like setting that edge and being an important part of the run game.”
Both Hunter and Carter have something to prove. Carter wants to show that he can still be productive at 34, after 12 grueling NFL seasons. Hunter wants to show he’s still effective after a devastating triceps tear that voided his 2012 season in training camp.
“I was really disappointed in how it all went down,” Hunter said. “I was having a pretty good training camp and the injury bug bit me. It was hard sitting at home, watching those games on TV. The experience made me more focused and more appreciative of this opportunity.”
Those two must be effective to divert attention from Houston, although nothing will take it away for good. Offenses will scheme against Houston, a dynamic young pass rusher poised for a big year. Steady production will improve upon a pass rush that had just 25 sacks last season.
Expectations are low, but the Raiders believe these ends will rise to the occasion.
“A good rotation is key at defensive end, where you never take a play off,” Carter said. “I think we’ll have one. We have a great group of guys here and I think we’ll be effective getting to the passer.”