LaTroy Lewis. Like Randy Orton’s RKO, the Oakland Raiders undrafted free agent came out of nowhere Saturday night with two sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.
“No one was asking me about Lewis the first two weeks of camp,” said Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio with a visible smirk in the postgame press conference. “We’ll be talking about Lewis this week. It’s good to see him take advantage of the opportunity and make a couple of plays.”
And this is how deprived of a pass rush the Raiders truly are: An undrafted linebacker’s two-sack night raising both eyebrows and expectations.
This isn’t a knock on Lewis. Far from it. The 6-foot-4, 256-pound former Tennessee Volunteer defensive end did right to turn some heads. What needs attention is how ravenous Oakland truly is when it comes to sacks.
“It’s good to see a couple young guys get pass rush, knowing we need other guys to step up to give us pressure,” Del Rio noted.
Lewis wasn’t the lone neophyte to peak interest. The other “young guy” Del Rio referred to is Treyvon Hester, who dropped the quarterback twice from his defensive tackle spot.
Del Rio added the first preseason game will provided valuable film to digest and study. Lewis, sporting the No. 46, impressively did some in-game study and applied what he learned.
“On the first one, I was watching Shilique (Calhoun) and (James) Cowser rush in the first half,” said Lewis of his first sack postgame. “I thought ‘They could have had this, they could have had that.’ I could see them working and they kind of set it up for me to get the edge. I said ‘I’m going as soon as I can’ and I got the corner. And yeah, that’s the one I want.”
While undoubtedly excited, Lewis showed wisdom beyond his years and a level-headed approach not found in many 23-year-old rookies.
“It’s the same the week before and the week before that,” Lewis began, “Get better. I’m not where I want to be. I’m taking notes from Khalil (Mack) and Bruce (Irvin) and I take it to the field and keep getting better.”
Building on Saturday night’s spotlight performance is imperative for Lewis’ NFL life. Yes, the Raiders need all the pass rushers they can get. But the life of an undrafted free agent is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. One night it’s two sacks, the next could be no QB takedowns and tape full of miscues. And, as a matter of fact, in the end, Lewis may not be a Raider this season.
To his credit, Lewis’ head is in the right place.
“I mean, at the end of the day, you come in and perform or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s one eyeball or 1,000. The goal is to make myself better,” he poignantly said.