Raiders Young Defensive Line Ready to Break Out

Say what you will about Raiders defense, but their defensive line held their own for the most part. Luckily, their core is signed and others should be brought back. A few more will be added for depth, which will create a solid rotation.

Clelin Ferrell, DE

Moving up, Ferrell has been labeled a bust by some couch general managers. Others know he was used out of place and shined in his natural edge position. In 15 games, he had 38 tackles (24 solo, 14 assisted, 8 for loss), eight quarterback hits, 4.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and five passes defensed. I see nothing wrong with those stats after a slow start. He was used across the line and even came down with a sickness at one point. Sure, he could have done more being an early first round pick, but he thrived as the season grew and will only get better.

Maxx Crosby, DE

Moving up, Crosby is the defensive rookie of the year in my eyes. He should not even be in that conversation as a fourth round pick, but he’s that good. In 16 games, he made 46 tackles (35 solo, 11 assisted, and 16 for loss), 14 quarterback hits, 10 sacks, four fumbles forced, and four passes defensed. Luckily, he will be here for years to come.

Related: How to fix the Raiders defense

Josh Mauro, DE

Moving on, Mauro played in 13 games and compiled 19 tackles (11 solo, 8 assisted, and 3 for loss) and two passes defensed. He is an unrestricted free agent and I don’t believe he has done enough to warrant an extension.

Benson Mayowa, DE

Split decision, Mayowa played in 15 games racking up 15 tackles (10 solo, 5 assisted and 5 for losses), 10 quarterback hits, seven sacks, and forced three fumbles. I believe he has earned another contract, but he is an unrestricted free agent. With that, may opt to test the market for a spot somewhere with more playing time.

Dion Jordan, DE

Moving up, Jordan fit in the defensive line. In seven games, he managed five tackles (all solo with one for a loss), two quarterback hits, two sacks, and one pass defensed. He is an unrestricted free agent and could leave but I think he sticks around.

Maurice Hurst, DT

Moving up, Hurst is under contract and has been solid for the most part. In 16 games, he had 18 tackles (11 solo, 7 assisted, and 4 for losses), eight quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks, and three passes defensed. He is underpaid and I expect him to get a raise either this upcoming season or in 2021.

Johnathan Hankins, DT

Split decision, Hankins is under contract and owed $5 million in 2020. In 16 games, he produced 50 tackles (28 solo, 22 assisted, and seven for loss), had six quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks, with one pass defensed. Those numbers aren’t bad but Raiders could probably get more out of players with less value, like Hurst.

P.J. Hall, DT

Moving up, I can see Hall taking Hankins’ role. In 16 games he made 26 tackles (18 solo, eight assisted, and five for loss), with three quarterback hits, and 1.5 sacks. He is under contract at a friendly price and I would not be surprised if he was starting along Hurst once the season rolls around.

Arden Key

Moving up, Key leaves a lot to be desired and lacks consistency but his improvement was showing before his injury. In seven games, he had four tackles (3 solo, 1 assist, and 2 for loss) and four quarterback hits. He is under contract for the next couple years at a fair price, no need to give up on him yet.

Any more new blood?

Jeremiah Valoaga, DE, was claimed by the Raiders last month. He is most notable as the sack leader for San Francisco last year, albeit that was just the 2019 preseason. He played a few regular games but was mostly a practice squad member. As a UNLV alum, I expect him to stick around.

Olsen Pierre, DE, who played nine games with the Giants in 2019, just signed by Raiders. He racked up eight tackles (seven solo, one assisted, and three for losses), as well as two quarterback hits and two sacks. Pierre is an unrestricted free agent but I expect him to be a camp body. He will have to shine to earn anything beyond.

Ade Aruna, DE, Signed to future contract, spent December on the practice squad.

Draft/free agency: I expect a few more names added in draft and free agency to provide more camp competition. When all is said and done, I believe only one or two new faces will be in the team’s current rotation.

Final Words

The defensive line has improved and will only get better with Rod Marinelli taking over. I think our starters are set with Ferrell, Hurst, Hankins/Hall, and Crosby. Raiders can start adding solid rotational players now.

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