On a team with as many young players on it as the Raiders, they look for their leaders anywhere they can find them and being considered a veteran stretches to players who are still on their rookie contracts.
One such player is Lamarr Houston who entering just his fourth year in the league, returns this season as easily the Raiders' longest tenured defensive lineman and one of just two returning starters along with safety Tyvon Branch.
Head coach Dennis Allen mentioned Houston in particular as being a guy he is looking to as a leader on this team.
"I'm extremely pleased with where Lamarr Houston is," said Allen. "I'm pleased with him as a football player. I'm pleased with him as a leader on this football team in trying to bring other guys along with him."
Lamarr Houston on Wednesday about his coach's comments about him.
"Reggie and DA are expecting me to step up being one of the veteran d-linemen here," said Houston. "We have a lot of young guys now. Fortunately for me I've been under the wing of Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour and they've helped me come a long way so far and Andre Carter as well. They think I'm ready to fill that role and I'm just going to do the best I can in helping this team out."
As with any good leader, Houston is not only a leader in the locker room, but also on the field. He tied for the team lead in sacks last season (4.0) and was easily the Raiders' defensive MVP. He leads by example and his motor is always running at its highest.
"I think if you really study what Lamarr Houston has been able to do, he's been able to get some pressure on the quarterback," said Allen. "Pass rush, pass coverage work together we've got to make them hold the ball a little bit and give him some opportunities to work a second move and get to the quarterback. Lamarr's probably not the guy who's going to be the flashy guy off the edge, but he understands how to rush, he's got power when he rushes, and he's got a little bit of slipperiness to him to beat blocks and get to the quarterback. He had some hits on quarterbacks last year and had some pressure, didn't result in a lot of high sack numbers, but if he continues to work and continues to get to the quarterback those sacks will come."
For Houston, the sacks have come in the past when he had a good surrounding cast. Last year, injuries to Richard Seymour affected the whole defensive line and injuries in the secondary made the pass rushers' jobs that much harder.
In that regard, it's a wonder Houston got even as many sacks as he did get. Desmond Bryant came into his own in place of Seymour and Andre Carter regained his form late in the season and the team began to play better on defense. It will once again take a team effort to get things done.
"The things I think about are team goals," said Houston. "I want this team to do well, a lot better than last year. Your personal goals only come from your team goals. Right now that's all I'm worried about, just getting this team better.
"I think we look great. We have a lot of new players. I think we're gelling really well, getting along and learning this defense together and we're working through all the kinks together. We're all on the same page and we understand what need to get done."
This team may be looking for its way right now but it is guys like Lamarr Houston that will help steer them in the right direction.