The Raiders to into this 2013 season hoping to improve a pass rush that was one of the worst in the NFL last season.
But after cutting veteran defensive end Andre Carter and David Bass, a seventh-round draft pick who had been a pass-rush phenom at Missouri Western State, Oakland’s ability to rush the passer seems suspect.
As Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, the entire Raiders roster now has just 16 career sacks to its credit.
Carter, 34, who played well for the Raiders last season in a limited role, has 78½ sacks in his NFL career; and Bass showed flashes to talent in preseason games with a sack and forced fumble and four quarterback pressures on 57 rushes.
The Raiders will go into their season opener Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis with Lamarr Houston and Jason Hunter at defensive ends and Pat Sims and Vance Walker at the tackles; the linebackers will be Nick Roach in the middle flanked by Keven Burnett and rookie Sio Moore.
While seventh-round pick Bass didn’t make the roster, undrafted free-agent rookie Ryan Robinson of Oklahoma State did. Robinson, according to Tafur (who cited Pro Football Focus), had seven quarterback pressures on 50 rushes over four exhibition games.
Robinson, 6-4 and 255 pounds, started just one season at Oklahoma State after transferring from a junior college. As a starter last season, he had 32 tackles (including 8½ for loss), 2½ sacks and six passes defended.
Robinson’s preseason highlight came when he scooped up the fumble caused by Bass’ sack against the Saints to score a touchdown.
“It was kind of unreal,” Robinson told reporters after scoring the TD. “When I scored I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to react, but I fell like that’s just a bigger steppingstone for me to make more plays on the road and show what I can do.”
With the Raiders knowing they have to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks or again get picked apart in the passing game – Oakland allowed a 66 percent completion percentage in 2012 – they’ll need Robinson to contribute. They’re also hoping Moore, at linebacker, can get to the passer, too.
The Raiders go into Sunday’s Colts game with three new starters at linebacker, three new starters in the secondary and three new starters on the defensive line. With all the changes, head coach Dennis Allen is hoping improvement will come.
“That was the emphasis this offseason, to try to improve our defense,” Allen told reporters recently. “To try to get our back end better. We’re a little bit better in the coverage aspect. Because it’s a quarterback-driven league, it’s a throwing league, and you’ve got to be able to defend the pass.”
But, it’s also good to get to the quarterback, too, and right now there is a big question mark hanging over the defensive line and its ability to do just that.