Scott Bair's 2013 Raiders awards: The defense

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Scott Bair's 2013 Raiders awards: The defense
January 9, 2014, 4:45 pm
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Nick Roach had a team-high 112 tackles and four forced fumbles and added 5.5 sacks for the Raiders in 2013. (AP)

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The Raiders offense got recognized on Monday, with a promise of CSN Bay Area’s defensive awards the following day.

Now it’s Thursday, and we’re just getting around to it.

Pardon the postponement. We had some coaching nonsense to settle.

[RELATED: Davis confirms Allen will remain Raiders' head coach in 2014]

Before we focus exclusively on the future of this franchise, let’s take a look back at a defensive full of potential despite 10 new starters that wore down due to a razor-thin depth chart.

The defense finished No. 29 with 28 points per game and No. 28 with 363.7 total yards allowed. The Raiders used seven starters with expiring contracts, so this unit may in fact fall apart.

Well, here are the defensive honors for 2013. We’ll go over the Raiders rookie contributions on Friday and look forward from there. Cross my heart.

Defensive player of the year: MLB Nick Roach

The Raiders brought in a supposedly too-small talent to play middle linebacker despite little experience at the position. The team had so much confidence in Roach, who had just four starts in the middle, that they gave him a four-year contract.

Now that $13 million contract looks like a bargain. Roach led the team with 112 tackles and four forced fumbles. He was also second on the team with 5 1/2 sacks.

He played all 1,105 defensive snaps and became the defense’s true leader. He could be counted on to lead the unit, and his even-keel demeanor carried the beaten-up and broken-down unit through tough times.

[BAIR: With trio intact, the pressure's on Raiders power structure]

Unsung hero: DT Vance Walker

Interior defensive linemen don’t get a lot of love. They don’t produce big numbers, but they play a vital role in a defensive scheme. Walker was one who produced steadily against the run and pass. He had 40 tackles – 24 of which Pro Football Focus deemed an offensive failure – and had three sacks, six quarterback hits and 32 hurries.

He was versatile enough to play tackle and end on rushing downs when asked. He ran down toward the end, but deserves more credit than he got.

‘Why on Earth is he on the bench?’ award: S Usama Young

The Raiders signed Usama Young to start at free safety in 2013. That was before Charles Woodson showed up. He started the year as a backup at both safety spots, but Brandian Ross started at strong safety after Tyvon Branch went down for good in Week 2.

Ross struggled mightily while Young was stuck on the bench despite some quality experience at strong safety. Young’s best game of the season at strong safety, but he never returned to the position for long. Exactly why, remained a mystery.

“Where was that all season?’ award: DT Pat Sims

The veteran nose tackle finished the season incredibly strong. His best games came in the second half, especially a Dec. 22 game at San Diego where Sims had 11 tackles and a sack.

Coaches cited improved focus and effort for that late-season surge, leaving many to wonder why he didn’t have it all season long. He flashed great potential during that stretch and likely earned a contract that will take him to another team next season.

Thanks for switching award: DB Tracy Porter

The veteran cornerback was a valuable addition to this defense. He wasn’t perfect, but Porter excelled despite playing outside corner in the base defense and slot corner in the nickel. His versatility and willingness to play hurt was a positive example for younger players forced into action.

Best quote: FS Charles Woodson

This was an easy decision. C. Wood only spoke once a week, after games, but he was a quote machine with recorders on. He never minced words and always told the truth, even when it hurt. His best effort came after a heartbreaking loss to the New York Jets, when he said this:
“We looked like the Bad News Bears out there. In saying that, I want to give a lot of credit to our offense. They never stopped fighting, and they really gave us a chance to stay in the game. Then, defensively, we went out there and basically peed down our leg. It’s just embarrassing.”

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