"With the 44th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select Lamarr Houston, defensive tackle, Texas."
At first, I was confused. I had no idea who Houston was, and why we didn't use our pick to draft an offensive lineman. I immediately went onto YouTube and typed in Lamarr Houston, expecting to see some fat defensive tackle. Instead, I saw a small, strong, and dominating player that was both a run-stopping machine, while possessing some very impressive pass rushing skills.
It didn't take me long to jump on the Houston Bandwagon. I remember how excited I got when I would read reports of the OTAs that took place and how Houston would get into fights with other players. Someone with some Raider Swagger, great!
When I heard that he was moving to defensive end, I was again, confused. Why would the coaching staff do that? We already have Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy there. The move ended up moving Richard Seymour, perhaps the most important move of the entire season.
The changes appeared to work very well, as evident in Week 1. If you had watched the game, you could tell that the Raiders defense kept Chris Johnson in check for all but a few plays, but of course, the bias of the media will always say the Raiders couldn't keep up with Johnson.
The next few games were full of ups and downs. The team was able to keep Steven Jackson and Tim Hightower in check, but allowed Beanie Wells and Arian Foster/Derrick Ward to run all over them.
Over the next four games, they kept three teams' running backs to 85 yards or less, including the so-called dynamic duo of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles. Frank Gore did have almost 150 yards, but again, he only had two to three big runs, and the media will always bash the Raiders run defense, making them out to be the worst ever.
After the bye week, out of seven games, there were only two games where our run defense was pushed around.
I would say that our run defense has greatly improved from the previous season, where teams were licking their chops when they heard they were going to get to run against us.
Back to the topic at hand: Lamarr Houston. How is he, a rookie, the most valuable player? His abilities to play so well at defensive end gave us the opportunity to move Richard Seymour to defensive tackle. It was clear to almost everyone that the guards and center were unable to handle Seymour. This also helped the two other defensive line starters. Tommy Kelly played terrific, sacking the quarterback seven times. Sure, losing over 20 lbs. of weight helped him, but I would say Houston and Seymour helped him more. The dominance of those three players helped Matt Shaughnessy come off the edge as a pass rushing specialist and terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
With offenses having trouble with our front four alone, John Marshall felt more comfortable sending more players on blitzes, such as Tyvon Branch, Kamerion Wimbley and Michael Huff, who combined for 17 sacks. The Raider defense as a whole sacked opposing quarterbacks 47 times total.
Early last year, I also wrote about how the Raiders could improve their pass defense, suggesting that we get a new cornerback to play across Nnamdi Asomugha. While the performances of Routt, Johnson and occasionally McFadden weren't amazing, they were good enough. It was clear that they were assisted by the crazy pass rush of the Raiders front four, plus blitzes.
So, again, why is Lamarr Houston the defensive MVP in my eyes? His stats alone were good, but his abilities caused a domino effect that led our team to the 11th-best defense.