LaMarr Woodley prefers moving forward over going back. That applies to his career and football-playing preference alike.
The 29-year-old edge rusher signed with the Raiders after seven seasons an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defensive scheme. Now he’s an end in the Raiders’ 4-3 alignment, trying to regain form after two injury-plagued, subpar seasons.
Switching positions was welcome because it eliminated Woodley’s least favorite job requirement: pass coverage.
Woodley occasionally spent as much time dropping back as he did pressuring the passer, something he won’t do with the Raiders. Despite some technical adjustments that come from having a hand in the turf, and starting mere inches from the opposition, Woodley is excited about playing a position he hasn’t manned but one year in college.
“Looking at the (Raiders) defense, seeing how guys were flying around on defense, getting after people, I kind of felt like after talking to the coach that that’s what he wanted me to do,” Woodley said. “He wanted me to rush the passer more and then drop back in coverage. I felt like with the kind of people that was on this defense, and add me in there, I felt like I could help the team win.”
There’s little doubt that Woodley can make the transition. In fact, having less movement in the open field might help the 29-year old stay healthy. The advantage of rushing as an outside linebacker is a head start, but the Raiders believe he can re-live his defensive-end days as a senior at Michigan. By the way, he had 12 sacks that season.
“All the things we’re going to ask him to do, he’s done at some point in his career,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “It’s a great opportunity for him. He’s excited about it, and we’re certainly excited about it. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do as a 4-3 defensive end.”
Woodley is also looking forward to a new start after a pair of lackluster seasons. He had nine sacks combined over the past two years, a minimum for any one season since 2007. That came in 2011, when he had nine sacks in 10 games.
Woodley had 44 sacks in four seasons before recent hiccups, which many consider the start of a Pro Bowler’s decline. Woodley doesn’t see it that way. Only one thing slowed him down in 2012 and 2013. It wasn’t talent, and it certainly wasn’t effort or work ethic.
“Injuries. That’s it. If I’m healthy, I do what I do,” Woodley said. “I’m not trying to be cocky about it, but that’s just what it is.”
Woodley is complete healthy and plans on staying that way. He sought counsel and new training techniques to maintain a 270-pound frame and prevent the lower body injuries that plagued him recently.
Woodley is ready to regain top form, and believes the Raiders gave him the best opportunity to do so.
“You still have to come here and prove yourself, at least that’s how I feel,” Woodley said. “The last few years for me haven’t been good. So I have to come here and I feel like I have to rebuild myself as well.”