The Raiders defense, much like it’s offense, is bad. But I don’t want to dwell on the negatives. That’s what game days are for. Instead, let’s celebrate the positives. Though they represent a small percentage of players, a few Raiders have acquitted themselves well. If anything, two of these players represent the acumen of Reggie McKenzie as a talent evaluator. This is a small glimmer of hope, to be sure. But it is a glimmer nonetheless.
According to Pro Football Focus’s (PFF) pass rush productivity (sacks + .75 hits + .75 pressures/total pass rush snaps), Lamarr Houston is the 15th most productive pass rusher among 4-3 defensive ends who have played at least 75% of the team’s snaps. This puts him in pretty elite company. I’m talking Mario Williams/Julius Peppers company. Houston’s not bad against the run either. In fact, he’s a top-five run defender among qualified defensive ends (75% of snaps). This too puts him Williams’ company. In all, Houston is the lone bright spot on a defensive line that has been the achilles of an already weak defense.
Wheeler, as I’ve previously noted, is probably the Raiders’ best defender. Though his play has dropped off considerably in the second half of the season, Wheeler still might also be one the NFL’s best. Wheeler’s pass rush productivity is the best among 4-3 outsider linebackers. It’s better than Von Miller, though Wheeler has roughly 1/4 of the attempts. Still, his 23 total pressures only 91 rush attempts is impressive. After recording 15 stops (which constitute an offensive failure) in the first four games, Wheeler recorded 19 over the following eight. He’s also missed he’s missed eight tackles, seven of which have come over the previous seven games. Nevertheless, Wheeler is still a more than adequate run defender. He ranks in the top-20 in run defense among outside linebackers who’ve played 60% of snaps. And his tackle efficiency (which accounts for tackles attempted and missed) ranks higher than Pro Bowlers Chad Greenway and Lance Briggs.
I’m not sure Miles Burris belongs on this list, to be honest. But, I promised three defenders, and here we are. The problem with Burris is probably the problem with any rookie: Inconsistency. As of late, he’s been more bad than good. He’s missed ten tackles in the past five games and hasn’t broken up a pass since Week 3. But, it’s not all bad. He has 13 pressures in just 94 attempts, which ranks him in the top-12, and his 25 stops are the ninth most among outside linebackers. So, sure, he’s been bad (really bad) at times, but he’s also been really good at others. In total, his presence has been a big plus, and an even bigger surprise.