With the 2018 offseason on the horizon, Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden must address the defense in free agency or the draft.
Right now, the trinity of Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and NaVorro Bowman needs grinders by their side from the trenches to the back-end. I know what you’re thinking, “let’s get Roquan Smith from Georgia with our 9th /10th pick for the draft!” Well…. I anticipate that we’ll go with a different LB named Tremaine Edmunds.
This young man is 6’5″, 250lbs, and at this size, he has excellent lateral quickness for an outside linebacker. He can come off the edge as a pass rusher and most likely take some of the pressure off of Mack; but wait, there’s more! Edmunds has highly effective cover skills where he can stay on those shifty running backs and tight ends in man coverage.
Raider Nation is way too familiar with seeing their team be dominated by every NFL tight end. It’s time we get that shut down. The Raiders need to make sure they get help on the interior part of the front seven and I expect Reggie and Jon to go after one in free agency and the draft.
One guy who is catching my eye in free agency is David Irving, defensive tackle from the Dallas Cowboys. Coming in at 6’7″ and weighing 290 lbs, he registered 22 tackles and seven sacks in eight games (due to suspension). For a guy like him to pull that off in a short amount of time, what if he played all 16 games? I know you’re thinking, “holy crap, if we get him, our line will be deadly”. He is still young at age 25 so it’s not like we are going after the “age 30″ crew. But here’s the thing about trying to grab him: he’s a restricted free agent. Are Reggie and company willing to match whatever offer Dallas is going to throw at him? We will see in March.
The Raiders have a greater opportunity to draft a defensive tackle who can come in and be a Day One starter. Remember that the team still has Treyvon Hester and Eddie Vanderdoes, but Hester will be in a rotation, in my opinion, and Vanderdoes is coming off an ACL injury on the same knee; we don’t know when they would be back.
Reggie and Jon should draft Harrison Phillips out of Stanford in the second or third round if he is still on the board. Phillips comes in at 6’4” 255 lbs. The first thought you have is if he has enough weight to hold it down inside on the line. Don’t let the weight fool you; he has a big-boned frame, the guy makes a ton of plays, and he was Stanford’s leading tackler with 103 and 7.5 sacks. Phillips is very active and shows determination when getting up the field. He can cause disruption, making the runner change direction, and he loves to deliver an aggressive push to the line, which causes the quarterback to move around like a chicken with his head cut off.
There is one more piece that I believe should be resigned with this defensive coaching staff and his versatility: Denico Autry. With the emergence of his performance last year, tallying up a career-high five sacks and being used the proper way with John Pagano, imagine what Paul Guenther can do. He can become a key piece to the Raiders’ defensive line under Guenther. In the end, hopefully, this idea manifests into a realistic outcome for this team this season and form a front seven that can become a force to be reckoned with.