The Raiders struggled to find a consistent pass rush last season yet decided to wait until the seventh round of April’s draft to take a pass-rushing specialist. That man is David Bass.
Bass made a name for himself at the Missouri Western State University by finishing with school-records of 40.5 career sacks and 50 consecutive starts.
The young defensive end used his ability to stay healthy during the offseason workouts to take in all the experience possible while also proving that he can play in the NFL.
“I feel mini-camp, OTA’s and mandatory mini-camp went well,” Bass said. “I showed that I can compete and I can fit and now we’ve got the pads on. I’m slowly taking everything in, like I said earlier: getting adapted to everything. I have my share of mistakes but I’m learning from everything and feel like I’m getting better everyday.”
After starting 14 games as a senior in which racked up 61 tackles, 11.5 sacks and seven passes defensed, Bass was invited to the East-West Shrine game. He was also named one of eight finalists for the Gene Upshaw Award, the award given to the best lineman in NCAA Division II football.
The Raiders finished 31st in the NFL with just 25 sacks last season, so there is no doubt Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is looking for someone to help apply pressure on the opponents’ quarterback.
Bass showed his ability to get into the backfield on Sunday, the team’s first day in pads by getting into the backfield on consecutive plays.
Bass got back there to bat down fellow rookie Tyler Wilson’s pass to the ground and then used his speed to beat the left tackle and get to Wilson again for the simulated sack. Just a couple of plays later, Bass disrupted the play once again by forcing Wilson to just throw the ball towards the ground.
These types of plays from Bass do not come as a surprise to Raiders head coach Dennis Allen.
“When we looked at him for the draft, that was one of the things that we saw: the ability to rush
the passer,” Allen said of the 6-foot-4, 254-pound defensive end. “That’s something that we’re going to count on.”
Allen knows that Bass can apply pressure, but he wants to see growth in his ability in defend the run.
“He’s got to continue to improve on the run game and continue to improve to just understand how to play the NFL game. He comes from a small school so there’s a big learning curve for him but he’s got some athletic ability and some pass-rushing ability.”
Bass knew he had work to do after being drafted and has been focusing on his run defense even harder.
“Coming in, that’s what I wanted to focus on [defending the run] because I had a lot of knocks saying ‘oh he can do pass but he can’t play the run,’ so I was focused on ‘if pass comes naturally to me, i’m going to go out there and continue what I do on pass but run… i need to put an emphasis on that so I can stop the run and show coaches that I’m more than one-dimensional and just stop the pass,’” Bass said. “So now I’m more focused on that at the same time I’m trying to work my pass rush too.”
Both Allen and Bass will be pleased when they watche tape from Tuesday’s practice and see a play in which Bass was able to shed his blocker and get to the running back for a simulated tackle at the line of scrimmage.
The 233rd-overall draft selection cites a change in on-field mentality as something that has surprised him with his play during training camp.
“Actually, these past couple of days I feel like my run defense is surprising me because usually more of a pass and then react to pass but now I’m more of a run, [then] react to pass,” Bass said.
Bass knows that he can’t abandon working on his pass rush while developing his rush defense as the NFL has a much higher level of play than that of which he played in college.
“Coming off the edge at this elite level is a lot different, I can tell you that, especially coming from a DII school,” Bass said. “I’ve been just trying to fine-tune my pass rush and get my technique down because you can’t just come off the edge any old way and get to the QB… there’s a lot involved.”
The good news for the young defensive end is that he has a group of defensive linemen around him with extensive knowledge and willing to teach.
“Lamarr Houston, starting off, that’s just a phenomenal guy – stopping the run, getting to the QB in pass. Real athletic. And Andre Carter, he’s a vet so he’s pretty much seen everything out there,” Bass said of his teammates. “And the rookies last year Jack and Christo, I get a lot of advice from them coming from their rookie season and getting accustomed. Pretty much anybody on our d line I can go to and just ask questions.”
After playing in front of small crowds in high school and at Missouri Western State, Bass looks forward getting in front of the Raider Nation at O.Co Coliseum.
“I can’t wait, man. I’ve been playing in front of 4,000, 5,000 my whole life,” Bass said. “I’m ready to see what a real crowd looks like.”
You can listen to the entire interview with David Bass below: