By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, August 26th, 2013 at 4:31 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Filed for print but with additional material . . .
Lamarr Houston is aware the Raiders first-team defense has barely laid a hand on Drew Brees or Jay Cutler in the last two preseason games.
And he’s not overly concerned.
“We want to get out there that we can rush the passer, but at the same time, it’s preseason, everything is very vanilla and offenses are very vanilla,’’ Houston said. “Right now, you can’t really tell how much better we’ve gotten as a defensive line, but soon, you’ll be able to see.’’
Considering the Raiders open the season with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts and face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Week 3 _ both on the road _ the sooner, the better.
Houston and strong safety Tyvon Branch will be the only starters remaining from a defensive personnel purge following the 2012 season. A third, linebacker Miles Burris, has yet to practice following offseason knee surgery.
The Raiders moved Houston from left end to right end, making him the blind side pass rusher although he’ll move inside on some downs with Andre Carter coming in as a nickel rusher.
A two-week absence with an undisclosed injury slowed Houston’s progress. He played against the Bears after minimal practice time and it showed, and coach Dennis Allen is hoping for better things when the Raiders close out the preseason Thursday night in Seattle.
“I thought he was rusty,’’ Allen said. “I don’t think that was his best effort. That just goes to show you it’s hard to play this game if you don’t get a chance to practice, so I’m looking forward to seeing improvement Thursday night and as we go into the regular season.’’
Houston, 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, is not the prototype right end, playing with high energy, a low center of gravity and without the jet-propelled outside rush so often associated with his position. He has 10 sacks in three seasons at left end and ideally would get that many this season at right end.
“He’s a little bit more of a power rusher than he is a speed rusher, but I really think he’s a guy that can help in getting some pressure on the quarterback,’’ Allen said.
Houston was a record-breaking high school running back who also played linebacker in high school in Colorado Springs, Colo., before going to Texas and playing defensive end, and then moving inside to tackle as a junior.
Being on the move so often has Houston resistant to being typecast by where he lines up.
“I really don’t think of positions like that,’’ Houston said. “I wouldn’t put myself in a category as being a pass-rusher or a run-stopper. I just think I’m a pretty good athlete who loves to play football.
During the offseason, Houston was enthused over how quickly the Raiders defense came together with the new personnel. Training camp has been another story on the field, as only recent have they had their entire defensive front on the field at the same time, with Houston, Vance Walker and Pat Sims all battling injuries.
“We didn’t have everybody practicing the way we wanted to because of different circumstances and situations, but I believe that we’re getting the work we needed to get done in the meeting rooms as well as on the field,” Houston said. “I still feel we’re progressing in the right direction. It’s going to be a great feeling when we have everybody out there together.”
Houston doesn’t believe the Chicago game to be a representation of what the Raiders first-team defense will represent.
“I believe we’re a better defense,” Houston said. `This last game we came out flat, and we didn’t play up to our standard, but I’m 100 percent sure we’re a better defense than we were before.”
– Allen on the timetable to name a starting quarterback between Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor: “Obviously we open up in 13 days. That’s coming sooner rather than later. I think it’s been a good competition. We’ve got a couple of options there that are going to give us a chance.”
Matt Flynn will rest is sore throwing arm through Thursday, then be re-evaluated, Allen said.
– Allen said fourth-round draft pick Tyler Wilson will “probably” play against Seattle.
The Raiders face an interesting decision regarding the 53-man roster at quarterback. Do they cut a fourth-round draft pick in Wilson even though he’s been outperformed by undrafted free agent Matt McGloin? Or do they cut McGloin, figuring they would have a better chance of getting him on the practice squad? Wilson’s status as a fourth-round pick could make him difficult to slip through waivers.
– Linebacker Kaluka Maiava, out since late July with an ankle injury, was back at practice and hoping to play against Seattle.
“I’m tired of being locked up in the training room,’’ Maiava said. “I know I have a lot of catching up to do and I’m ready to get going. My teammates have been grinding this whole camp and I’ve been feeling left out and kind of letting them down. Feels great to be back and moving around and getting the season started.’’
Maiava began camp splitting first-team reps at weak side linebacker with Kevin Burnett but now will likely provide depth at all three positions as well as participate on special teams.
“We’ll find out more the more we get a chance to watch him, but when it comes time to determining who those starting three linebackers are, we’ll have to wait and see how that develops after the Seattle game,” Allen said.
– Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t mentioned on Allen’s injury update with the meida, but he came out late to practice wearing a ballcap instead of a helmet and watched as punter Chris Kluwe attempted a field goal.
Following practice, the Raiders were trying out a left-footed place kicker on a far field in front of members of the personnel department. As a matter of policy, the Raiders don’t disclose the names of players who work out.
– Strong safety Tyvon Branch returned to practice after missing time with a rib injury. Allen said he would see how Branch responds before determining whether he would face Seattle. Cornerback Tracy Porter, having practiced the last two days, is likely to face Seattle.
It remains to be seen who the Raiders will start at cornerback, but the plan will be to keep D.J. Hayden on the outside, with Porter playing the slot receiver in the nickel.
The Raiders are still without wide receivers Brice Butler (hamstring) and Rod Streater (concussion).
– The Raiders waived defensive lineman Brandon Bair and offensive lineman Alex Parsons while injured. Both will move to the Raiders injured reserve list once they clear waivers.
The Raiders have three more players to trim from the roster Tuesday to reach 75.
– Allen’s assessment on rookie tight end Mychal Rivera: “I’ve seen a guy that does a pretty good job in the passing game. I think he’s got a pretty good feel for what we’re asking him to do in the passing game. He’s a guy that’s got to continue to work on his blocking. He’s improved his blocking . . . We’ve got some guys on this team who can turn into good NFL football players and he’s one of them.”