We started the awards by handing out the Offensive MVP. Now we move on to the Defensive MVP.
Defense has not been anything to brag about in Oakland for quite some time. This season was no exception with the team finished among the worst in the league. But beneath the rubble of a season torn apart by "out of whack" contracts and injuries, there were some gems which came shining through. The Defensive MVP shined the brightest.
Defensive MVP - Lamarr Houston
At the halfway point of the season, I called Lamarr Houston the Raiders Defensive MVP. Some readers disagreed with me at the time. There should be far fewer in disagreement now.
As the season has gone along, Houston has done nothing but get better and better. That is saying a lot considering he was Defensive Player of the Month for October. I said at the time that his energy was infectious to not just the defense but the entire team. When he made plays, it served as extra motivation for his teammates on both sides of the ball.
The first time we saw this energy was in week five against the Broncos when he ran 50 yards downfield to put himself in the right place to recover a fumble by Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. This was after most of his defensive teammates had given up on the play. Had he slowed up for even a moment, there was a Broncos tight end right behind him who would have recovered that fumble inside the five yard line.
Two weeks later, he tracked down Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts III to force the game-clinching fumble in overtime. A defensive end is not supposed to be running down receivers. Not to say many of them can't. They just aren't often asked to do it. Neither is Houston. He just does it because he wants to make a play.
Going above and beyond what is asked of him is what makes him the Defensive MVP. It's something that has been in short supply in Oakland for quite some time. He made up for lapses elsewhere which if every player on this defense did that, there would be few if any of the huge plays made against them this season.
He finished the season fourth on the team with 67 tackles (48 solo). No other Raider defensive lineman came close to his tackle numbers. The closest was Tommy Kelly with 46 tackles (25 solo). Houston had more tackles by himself than the right end trio of Matt Shaughnessy, Andre Carter, and Dave Tollefson combined (57), the defensive tackle combination of Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant (51), or the nose tackle duo of Kelly and Christo Bilukidi (54).
Of those tackles, Houston had far more tackles for loss (13) than anyone on the team or any combination of the above defensive linemen at their respective positions. He also led the team with 13 quarterback hurries and shared the team lead with 4.0 sacks.
He is a strong building block for this defense which is hoping to ride the defensive momentum of the last few games of the 2012 season into 2013.