This is the time of year where the entire football world is arguing with each other about pretty much everything. However, the one thing everyone agrees on is that the Oakland Raiders need to improve their pass rush. What have the Raiders done to improve upon this glaring need? Sign NFL journeyman Josh Mauro, who has three career sacks in five seasons.
The good news is the offseason is not over. The Raiders opting to address other positions in free agency leads me to believe Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are going to utilize the draft to fill the team’s biggest need. While I agree with the decision to find a pass rusher in the draft, Gruden and Mayock need to be smart about this and utilize picks 4 and 24 on pass rushers. Below is my rationale.
One guy doesn’t fix the problem
The Raiders finished the 2018 season with 13 sacks, which ranked dead last in the NFL. If you doubled the Raiders’ sack total, they would still be last in the NFL by four sacks. In 2016 Khalil Mack had 15 sacks, so even if Mack was on the roster last season and replicated the best season of his career, the Raiders still would have finished last in sacks. The Raiders’ aren’t just trying to replace Mack; they are trying to create a new identity on defense. One really good pass rusher would certainly be a step in the right direction, but ultimately would not be significant enough to solve the Raiders’ defensive woes.
The NFL Draft is a Lottery
I don’t think I have to remind Raider fans about this, but draft picks don’t always work out. As much as fans, analysts and general managers try to pinpoint what draft prospects will become good pros; ultimately the draft is a crapshoot. Prospects who everyone expects to be superstars become busts and vice versa.
A good pass rush is so important in today’s NFL and the Raiders cannot afford to draft a bust at pass rusher without a back-up plan. The Raiders have currently have three defensive ends on the roster, so they need to utilize the draft for plan A and plan B. In the event that both pass rushers selected become gems, I don’t think you will hear Gruden, Mayock or Raider Nation complaining. In that situation, the Raiders will eventually have to choose one player over the other because it would be hard to pay both players, but they should cross that bridge when they get to it. In the meantime, play the lottery with two tickets instead of one and address the team’s biggest need aggressively.
Pass Rush is the most important part of a Defense
A good pass rush can serve as deodorant for a bad defense and cover up flaws in the secondary. The faster pass rushers can get to the quarterback, the less time the rest of the defense has to cover. Ultimately, defensive backs and linebackers can’t cover receivers forever, especially in Zone Coverage, which is what Paul Guenther likes to run. Far too often last season, the Raiders would have good coverage, but ultimately gave the quarterback too much time to read the defense and eventually a receiver would break free from coverage.
In other words, the Raiders have the talent in their secondary, but that talent is hindered by the lack of support from up front. Taking pass rushers with the first two picks would signal to the Raiders’ secondary that help is on the way and the organization is committed to helping them succeed.
Would still have 2 picks in the top 35
I know there are multiple holes on Raiders’ roster and pass rush is only one of them. However, the Mack and Cooper trades have put the Raiders in a unique situation where they have four picks in the top 35. If the Raiders select pass rushers with their first two picks, they will still have two picks in the top 35 to address other needs. Seeing as only two teams separate picks 24 and 27, if the Raiders like a player at pick 24, the same player will likely still be on the board at pick 27. Sure, you could say the same thing about a pass rusher being there at pick 27, but why take that risk with the team’s biggest need? If the Raiders’ don’t have to worry about drafting a pass rusher after their first two picks, Gruden and Mayock can use the rest of the draft to patch up the remaining holes on the roster.
Is the season doomed if the Raiders only take one pass rusher? Certainly not, but it would definitely be a risk and one I am not willing to take. Ultimately, the Raiders are at the point with their pass rush where they need to start throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.