One of the biggest question marks for the Raiders this season will be the defensive line as it continues to take shape from now through the season.
The current Oakland Raiders defensive nucleus has had major changes shape it through the draft and free agency. Yet in spite of this, the defensive line has some lingering questions such as who will be starting and just how deep is the unit, to begin with.
Eddie Vanderdoes, Paul Boyette, and Treyvon Hester are all rookies that have been infused into the current Raiders team and each can brings an intangible or feature that can help the team this year even if they’re rookies.
Listen as RaiderRamble.com’s Micah spoke with Raiders’ rookie Paul Boyette!
Hester who played at Toledo has excellent size at 6’2″ weighing 300 pounds with great hands and was a disruptive force in school with a career total 13 sacks and four forced fumbles. Boyette hailing from the University of Texas has a shot a to be a disruption in the trenches for the Silver and Black, his frame alone of 6’3″ and 317 will warrant a try as a rotation player.
Vanderdoes out of UCLA is a player many in Raider Nation are truly psyched to see this season and for good reason. Prior to an injury, he suffered in college 2015, Vanderdoes was a force piling up 87 tackles his first two seasons in Westwood. If Vanderdoes can recapture the shape he was (with reports saying he’s looking good so far) then it’s plausible Reggie McKenzie got an absolute steal with this kid.
If the Raiders are serious about making a run for the Super Bowl the pass-rush will have to step up its game, which means returning players will have to elevate their production from last season as Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack need help carrying the defense.
Defensive tackle Dan Williams won’t be returning so it’s up to players like Justin Ellis, Mario Edwards Jr., Denico Autry, and a player who’s become known for blocking his critics, Jihad Ward.
Ellis who started only four games last season (but started 14 in 2014) will be relied upon to help anchor the line in the middle.
Edwards seems to be a wildcard this season due to him recovering from an injury that limited to only appearing in two games last season. The reason for such optimism? In 2015, Edwards started 10 games as a rookie and piled up 33 tackles, two sacks, two deflected passes, and one forced fumble. If Edwards can tap into his “rookie self” this season, then perhaps the Raiders might have a future star in the making.
*Video courtesy of our friends over at RaiderCentral.com
Ward for his part, in just one season he started 13 games but his numbers were pedestrian to put it nicely. One forced fumble, zero sacks, and sixteen tackles won’t be enough this season as he figures to be in the hunt for starts as Aldon Smith won’t be returning (for now), though the aforementioned rookies might be able to push Ward to step up his game.
Many don’t seem to think this unit will progress much from last season, unless of course, Smith returns which will undoubtedly impact the pass rush. If all stays the same with this unit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the line can contribute any more than 10-15 sacks as a unit.