Grading the Raiders defense: Defensive End

USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Raiders are rebuilding their defense from scratch, so how does it look so far?

The Oakland Raiders and general manager Reggie McKenzie have engaged in a complete overhaul of the defense this off season. Of the 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball last season, only three are still on the roster, Lamarr Houston, Tyvon Branch and Miles Burris. In addition to the immense number of free agents that either moved on or have not yet been re-signed by the Raiders, McKenzie also cut four defensive players, three of whom were starters -- Rolando McClain, Tommy Kelly, and Michael Huff.

But McKenzie has also focused his attention in free agency to the defensive side of the ball. Since the start of free agency, the Raiders have signed eight players, seven of which play on the defensive side of the ball. Yet despite all of those signings, the Raiders still have an incredible amount of work that needs to be done before they hit the field for the 2013 season.

The new additions to the Raiders defense include defensive end Jason Hunter, defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker, linebackers Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava and cornerback Tracy Porter. The Raiders have also re-signed cornerbacks Coye Francies and Phillip Adams as well as linebacker Keilin Burnett (younger brother of Kevin Burnett).

Now, with the Raiders sitting just slightly below the cap Reggie McKenzie likely will not be making many moves between now and April 25th when the first round of the NFL Draft begins. Obviously, the Raiders will continue their defensive rebuilding during the draft, but will also have to address some offensive depth issues and are still lacking picks in the second and fifth rounds. The Raiders may find a couple of defensive players in the draft who will contribute right away, but for the most part, the defense will be made up of the players already on the roster along with some cheap depth added from the remaining free agents.

So with that said, just how bad is the Raiders defense as it currently stands? Throughout this week, I will be taking a look at the defensive side of the ball, unit by unit. First up, defensive end:

Defensive End

The Raiders only have one clear starter at the defensive end position -- Lamarr Houston. Now entering his fourth season in the NFL, Houston is a hard working and aggressive defensive end who still has not reached his full potential and is likely a guy who will be a part of this defense for years to come. The other returning defensive ends include second year player Jack Crawford, newly signed free agent Jason Hunter and practice squad player Brandon Bair.


Crawford is a pass rushing specialist taken in the 5th round of the 2012 draft. He saw rather limited time in his first season playing in four games and making three tackles. He did not show anything to give the impression that he would be pressing for a starting job this season, but he could contribute. Jason Hunter is also supposed to help in the pass rush but with only 11 sacks over 6 years in the league does not give the impression he will help very much. His best statistical year was in 2010 when he put up 61 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. He makes for good depth but is not a starter. Bair is a practice squad player and probably won't make the team.

This means the Raiders do not have a clear starter to be the bookend opposite Houston. It's possible the Raiders will spend a high draft pick on this position, but with so many other holes, there is a good chance they go another direction. That means the other defensive end position will likely be more of a rotation rather than having a clear starter.

Overall position grade: D


Lamarr Houston is a very good player who the Raiders will want to keep around for years, but beyond him, this is a rag tag group of players. Crawford is still young and may develop into a good contributor, but he is not there yet and Hunter is a veteran who has never had a ton of success.
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