Pass rush has been something wholly lacking in Oakland for some time. And when you look at these rankings, you'll see just how long. Everyone knows pass rush is a key to success in the NFL. In a 4-3 defense, that pass rush typically comes from the defensive end position.
One thing that I noticed when compiling these rankings is the lack of continuity. For the first time since starting this series, there wasn't a single season in which the team had the same defensive ends on both sides from one season to the next. They either were not good enough or the Raiders simply wouldn't invest in keeping them around. It's like any other position in that constant turnover is not good.
Here are the defensive end rankings over the past decade and where the 2014 squad could potentially land:
1. Derrick Burgess, Bobby Hamilton (2005)
Derrick Burgess went off in his first season with the Raiders to the tune of 16.0 sacks. It set a new team record for sacks in a single season That alone is enough to make this tandem the Raiders' best in the past decade. Hamilton didn't have the sack totals (2.0) of Burgess but he had good overall tackle numbers (56) as a run stopping defensive end.
While Burgess was unable to continue to keep up the 16.0 sacks by himself, this season the Raiders got those 16.0 sacks between him and Chris Clemons as a situational pass rusher on the other side. But more impressive than Burgess' sack numbers were his overall pressure. He had an incredible 45 quarterback hurries that season. If the Raiders could have gotten better play out of Richardson, they would have been tough to beat. Clemons has gone on to a very successful NFL career since his one season in Oakland, including being a key part of the Seahawks Super Bowl run last season.
3. Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley (2014)
Woodley has had a couple of down years but even at his worst, his totals have not been bad. His main concern is health and how he will transition from outside linebacker in a 3-4 to defensive end in the Raiders' 4-3. But based on his game, not having to drop into coverage as much could prove beneficial. It's hard to see why the Giants would not make more of an effort to keep Tuck. He had great numbers across the board including 12 sacks which would easily have been the best sack numbers for the Raiders since Derrick Burgess in 2005. The Raiders were criticized for going after overaged players this free agency but that is more about long term. We're talking about this season and Woodley (29) and Tuck (31) show little signs they are ready to pack it in. There appears to be a lack of depth behind Woodley should his injury issues continue, however, rookie linebacker Khalil Mack can easily step in at defensive end as well as defensive tackle, Antonio Smith. So, there are options.
It was Houston's rookie season. He was still making the transition from college defensive tackle to NFL defensive end. Even so, he managed to put up 5.0 sacks along with 24 quarterback hurries. Shaughnessy had his best season as a Raider with 8.0 sacks and 56 tackles. Though Trevor Scott started more games, his production didn't match. His best statistic was his 19 quarterback hurries in ten games played. These three also received a lot of help from the men inside - Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly - and the offense being at its best, forcing opposing teams to put the ball in the air.
5. Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaughnessy (2012)
Houston was a man possessed in 2012 and really came into his own. He had just 5.0 sacks but he was clearly the best defensive player on the field every week for the Raiders. He had cut down his weight and was running down receivers down field and across the middle. Shaughnessy also had 5.0 sacks but the rest of his numbers didn't match that, including his 27 combined tackles (23 solo).
6. Derrick Burgess, Tyler Brayton (2006)
It was Burgess' second-straight double digit sack season (11.0). He also added 50 tackles. But Tyler Brayton was pretty bad. He had zero sacks and 43 combined tackles on the season.
Houston took a step forward in his second season, though he was far from a finished product. Even so, he had an impressive 27 quarterback hurries with 3.0 sacks. Matt Shaughnessy was out the entire season, leaving the combination of Bryant and Moss to carry the load. Bryant led the team with 6.0 sacks despite playing out of place as a 3-tech defensive tackle. Moss was a desperation signing and didn't offer much.
8. Greg Ellis, Richard Seymour/Trevor Scott (2009)
This was Seymour's first season in Oakland and despite shooting out the gates with two sacks in his first game in Silver & Black versus the Chargers, he would get just two more sacks the rest of the season. It was clear he needed to make the switch to 3-tech DT after that. Ellis played fairly well. He had 7.0 sacks that season with 21 QB hurries though his run stopping duties left much to be desired. Trevor Scott came in as a situational pass rusher and matched Ellis for the team lead in sacks.
9. Lamarr Houston, Jason Hunter (2013)
Lamarr Houston was Lamarr Houston. He improved again from the previous season with 6.0 sacks and a very impressive 41 quarterback hurries along with 70 combined tackles (63 solo). On the other side, the Raiders had the opposite. A Hunter he was not. How he even got four sacks is surprising considering most of the time he was not a factor. What he lacked in pass rush was matched by his lack of run support. He had a total of 24 combined tackles (18 solo) while starting all but three games.
10. Derrick Burgess, Kalimba Edwards/Jay Richardson (2008)
This was Burgess' final season for the Raiders. He played in just ten games in 2008 and had by far his worst numbers with just 3.5 sacks on the season. Edwards could muster up just 4.0 sacks but had a respectable 31 quarterback hurries. And of course, Richardson was downright dreadful.
11. Tyler Brayton, Bobby Hamilton (2004)
Wow. Raiders bust first round pick Brayton in his second season with a whopping 2.5 sacks to go along with 45 combined tackles (36 solo). Hamilton added 1.0 sack and 57 tackles for easily the worst defensive end combo in the past decade. Undrafted rookie Tommy Kelly had the team lead in sacks with 4.0.