Oakland Raiders fans are well aware that some of the biggest improvements must come from the Raiders' defense in order to get the Silver and Black on top of the AFC West in 2012.
The hiring of head coach Dennis Allen in January was an important step in making some of those much-needed improvements. The former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator was a big help to a hugely improved Denver offense in 2011.
In fact, much of quarterback Tim Tebow's success should have been credited to their defense, partially in thanks to Allen. When the Broncos were on their six-game winning streak, they held their opponents to an average of 17 points per game.
Oakland’s defense has a strong D-line and although the unit hasn't always played up to their potential, the Raiders' D-line is a collection of incredibly talented and highly capable athletes. It will be up to the new defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, to use his defense to their full potential and take advantage of every opportunity possible.
According to Raiders.com, "Throughout OTAs, the defense had been installing their new system and working diligently to become as familiar with it as possible before training camp."
Defensive end Lamarr Houston remarked, “I feel like we progressed with all the installments we’ve had over the past two weeks. I feel like we’re building our tradition as a defense and our foundation for the season so I feel like we’re doing really well.”
A solid defense is key for the Raiders in 2012. Here is a look at the four draft picks the team signed this week, as the pieces of the puzzle come together in the new winning era for the Silver and Black.
The team announced on Friday, June 8 that linebacker Miles Burris is the fourth member of the club’s 2012 draft class to have agreed to terms. Burris was a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State, and possibly the most important pick for the Raiders in the draft.
Burris has also been talked about as the most likely rookie to crack the starting lineup first this season. He grew up an Oakland fan and although he's expected to start out at outside linebacker, he's said to be versatile enough to play in a number of positions, including on special teams.
Burris told the San Francisco Chronicle last month that he is "eager to help wherever they need me," and is "very excited to be a Raider."
On Thursday, June 7, the Raiders announced that linebacker Nathan Stupar was one of the first signings of the Silver and Black’s 2012 draft class. The 6'2", 241-pound player hails from Penn State and was selected by the Raiders in the seventh round (230th overall) of this year’s draft.
Stupar is a solid tackler, and he's also the nephew of former Raiders quarterback Jeff Hostetler. He's said to have star potential and is labeled as being one of this year's standout rookies. Fans might recall that when Stupar spoke with the Raiders' Jeanette Thompson, he told her he would "not let the Raider Nation down."
Defensive end Jack Crawford was also one of the first signings of the 2012 Raiders draft class on Thursday. The 6'5", 274-pound player was drafted in the fifth round, 158th overall, by the Raiders this year. He played four years at Penn State, seeing action in 13 games as a senior and totaling 42 tackles with 6.5 sacks for losses, totaling 39 yards. Crawford also recorded six passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.
A native of London, England, Crawford played in 10 games with seven starts as a junior and started every game at defensive end as a sophomore. He played both defensive tackle and tight end as a freshman. He moved to the United States as a high school sophomore in 2005 and excelled in basketball before beginning his football career.
Defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi was the third player among the first three signings of 2012 draft picks on Thursday. The 6'5", 311 pound-player is from Georgia State and was a sixth-round pick and the 189th overall selection.
The Angola-born Bilukidi played high school football in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and made history becoming the first NFL draft pick from Georgia State. He amassed 89 tackles with 10 sacks over two seasons.
Shortly after he was chosen by the Silver and Black, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Bilukidi wasn't surprised the Raiders selected him, commenting, “I worked hard for it.”
Touchdown against Houston Texans.
These newest signings put a few pieces of the puzzle in place to help the Silver and Black get back on the winning track as the new Raiders era begins.
Ninety-four days and counting for the Oakland Raiders 2012 season to officially begin.