You won’t find Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston among the AFC sack leaders this season. The man who wears No. 99 has five sacks, which only puts him in a six-way tie for 19th in the conference.
Yet the young defensive end has become a force and a playmaker for Oakland in his fourth season in the NFL. This season the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder, just 26 years old, already has equaled his career high with the five sacks – matching the five he had as a rookie in 2010 – and has 42 tackles in 10 games. Houston also has forced two fumbles and recovered one. In defensive coordinator Jason Tarver’s defense, Houston has been a key – and very durable -- player. Since coming into the league, he hasn’t missed a game.
Houston played a big role Sunday in the Raiders’ 28-23 victory over the Texans.
Late in the first quarter, the Texans drove to the Oakland 25 yard line, where they had a third-and-12 play. Houston sacked quarterback Case Keenum for a 15-yard loss, pushing the Texans out of field-goal range.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Houston was part of a Raiders defense that held the Texans out of the end zone after reaching the Oakland 2-yard line. Linebacker Kevin Burnett dropped running back Ben Tate for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1, then the Raiders took over on downs when quarterback Matt Schaub’s fourth-down pass was incomplete.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said Houston was a big part of that goal-line stand, noting that both Houston and linebacker Sio Moore had great push at the line of scrimmage that helped Burnett make the tackle for loss.
This week, Allen acknowledged that Houston’s ability to disrupt plays on the defensive line has helped the defense as a whole.
“I think when you have players of Lamarr’s ability, I think that helps some of the other guys on the defensive line,” Allen told Bay Area reporters Monday. “I thought Lamarr made an outstanding play on the sack in the first half of the football game. To knock them out of field-goal range was a huge play in the game. Lamarr is a guy that’s continued to play well for us. He may not have all of the sack numbers that some of the other guys in this league might have, but he’s been very disruptive. He gets to the quarterback a lot, and he has a lot of hits on the quarterback. So, Lamarr has been a good player for us.”
Houston’s 42 tackles also rank No. 2 in the AFC among defensive ends, tied with Carlos Dunlap of Cincinnati and behind only Chandler Jones of New England.
Houston, the only returning starter from last year’s defense still on the field (with the injury to safety Tyvon Branch), credits Tarver with putting together a successful scheme.
“Our defensive coordinator does a great job putting us in position to succeed,” Houston said recently. “He helps create matchups and situations where you can win. That’s helped me this season, and I’m thankful for it. I believe that if I execute the game plan well, we’re going to do well.”
Houston and the Raiders (now 4-6) will get a chance for the second consecutive victory this Sunday when they play host to the Tennessee Titans (4-6).