2019 Raiders Position Preview: Defensive Line

So far in this series, we’ve examined the defensive backs and linebackers on this 2019 Oakland Raiders roster. Today, we’ll complete the defensive side of the ball by looking at the defensive line. This position was much-maligned in 2018, but looks primed for an improved 2019 campaign.

Edge Rushers: Clelin Ferrell, Benson Mayowa, Arden Key, Quentin Bell, Josh Mauro, Alex Barrett

This group is headlined by Ferrell, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. While he likely won’t match the production of the last player the Raiders took with the fourth pick, he brings talent this d-line desperately needed.

Ferrell is basically as lock to start Week 1 barring injury. For a defense that managed only 13 sacks last year, Ferrell is an excellent pass rusher with an explosive first-step. He has active hands, which gives him potential to develop a large package of moves, and he has an impressive rip move. He’s not overly strong or fast, but his quick first-step helps him get a head start. He’s good in pursuit and he’s strong enough to hold his ground. It should be refreshing for Raider Nation to watch.

Starting opposite Ferrell should be Mayowa or Key. Key is likely the favorite, but it’s a toss-up. Mayowa has recorded 13 career sacks in 72 games and has 136 tackles. Key had a tough rookie year, but in his defense, he should have had many more sacks than the one he recorded, were it not for missed tackles, penalties, etc. He’s a good candidate to have a much-improved sophomore season.

Mauro, Bell, and Barrett will all likely fill out the second and third strings. Mauro is coming off a season with one sack and Bell was drafted in the seventh round this year, while Barrett is an un-drafted rookie.

Interior Rushers: Maurice Hurst, Jonathan Hankins, PJ Hall, Justin Ellis, Eddie Vanderdoes, Gabe Wright

This is probably the strongest part of this group. Hurst was a steal in the fifth round for the Raiders in the 2018 draft and he proved that with a solid rookie season, tallying four sacks and 26 tackles. He showed a lot of promise and should have an even better second year.

The other starting defensive tackle spot will go to either Hall, Ellis, or Hankins. None of these three recorded a sack last year, and none tallied 30 tackles, which definitely isn’t encouraging. Hall, like Key, struggled in his rookie season, but he also has potential. If he can make an improvement in his second year, and Hankins and Ellis can up their production, it would certainly be a big help.

Related: Linebackers Preview for 2019 Raiders

Need a reason for optimism? The Raiders hired a new defensive line coach this off season, Brentson Buckner. Buckner coached for Tampa Bay last year, and he took that defensive line from a league-low 16 sacks to 38. Three of his defensive lineman recorded at least six sacks last year. In his five-year stint with the Cardinals, Buckner’s group had the seventh-most sacks in the NFL at 203. Buckner is a great coach and he should be a huge help to the Raiders’ young pass-rushers.

This group should be better than it was last year. Actually it has to be, as the team finished with the lowest amount of sacks in the NFL. While this position is not a position of strength by any means, some fresh faces on the field and sidelines should make for an improved group, which will help the defense as a whole.

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