Despite the fact the Las Vegas Raiders have a young defensive core, they are lacking a vital component that would change the entire outlook of the defense moving forward. Defensive tackle Chris Jones can be that missing piece.
Last season, the defensive front compromised one of the strongest position groups on the Raiders roster. Johnathan Hankins fulfilled the role of a stout defender against the run. Pro Football Focus deemed Maurice Hurst one of the most effective players at the position in just his second season. Additionally, P.J. Hall had his moments and tossed opposing linemen around like rag dolls.
Nowadays, edge defenders are the main recipients of high praise in the NFL. Household names such as Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and J.J. Watt successfully hunt down quarterbacks on a weekly basis and while their performances are excellent, their teammates on the interior can be just as devastating when getting to the quarterback. Aaron Donald is a prime example of the absolute havoc a defensive tackle can cause.
A Detroit horror film by Aaron Donald pic.twitter.com/d47C7Er9QA
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) December 5, 2018
The Rams five-time All-Pro is in a class of his own among interior defensive linemen. However, the second best is set to hit free agency. Should the Raiders attempt to acquire him?
From Foe to Friend?
Every member of Raider Nation is familiar with the name Chris Jones, the best defender on the Kansas City Chiefs, and a living nightmare for the Raiders.
DT Chris Jones is poised to hit free agencyðŸ’°in March if KC doesnâ€™t apply the franchise tag. He finished 2019 with 20 QB hits, 9 sacks, 8 TFLs and 4 batted passes in 13 regular season games. Elite interior pass rusher.
Take him off the Chiefs, add him to the #Raiders, win-win? pic.twitter.com/CedFVhKMVG
— Kris Wysong (@KrisWysong) February 5, 2020
Jones, who was Pro Football Focus’ second highest graded pass rushing defensive tackle in 2019, will be seeking a new deal. With a substantial Patrick Mahomes contract extension looming, the Chiefs may not be able to spread enough wealth to retain the best defender in this past Sunday’s Super Bowl victory. The franchise tag is the fallback plan if contract negotiations reach a stalemate. If the star defensive tackle somehow reaches the open market, the Raiders would be foolish not to inquiry for his services. The ability to convert a division rival into an asset for the team is what transpired with Rodney Hudson, who has made many forget his NFL beginnings and has made his career, and money with the Raiders, who could afford Jones the same opportunity as his potential arrival would allow players like Maxx Crosby more freedom to work unhindered. Las Vegas is an appealing destination with tax freedom and the Silver and Black has the cap space to make an offer he couldn’t refuse. A terrific counter to Mahomes moving forward is not something the Raiders would overlook. The situation does have many variables, as there appears to be mutual interest for him to return between him and Kansas City.
If he remains with the Chiefs for life, there is nothing to fear, the NFL draft offers two great alternatives.
Related: Autumn winds of change for the Raiders
Derrick Brown – Auburn Tigers
The Chris Jones scenario is full of variables, but one constant is talent in this year’s draft, where the Raiders own the 12th and 19th overall selections. It would be in the team’s best interest to acquire an impact defender with either first round choice and Auburn’s Derrick Brown, who makes his present felt on a consistent basis, would be perfect.
Derrick Brown vs. 2019 NFL Draft pic.twitter.com/Y7jhsSWBdo
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) January 6, 2019
Brown had 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in a terrific 2019 campaign for the Tigers. At 6’5″, 320 pounds, the Raiders would immediately acquire a player who thrives on collapsing the pocket with a full arsenal of pass rush moves.
Derrick Brown has to be high on the Lions radar. pic.twitter.com/xNLvllAPGz
— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) December 1, 2019
A good pass rush is hard to find according to head coach Jon Gruden, and Derrick Brown is better than good. With that being said, he may be gone before the 12th selection.
Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina Gamecocks
While both Chris Jones and Derrick Brown both have extenuating circumstances of availability attached to them, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw appears to be the consolation prize. However, he’s not lacking potential.
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw is 6â€™6 300+ and moves like this ðŸ‘‡ðŸ» pic.twitter.com/MODS1zPZqM
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 12, 2020
Alabama, who had one of the best offensive lines in college football, had to commit three players to Kinlaw. It was only a three man rush on this play, but the interior defender has that much of an impact if left unaccounted for. Secondly, Kinlaw is 6’6″ 300+ pounds closing down on the ball carrier at the rate of a linebacker or defensive back. This man is an athletic specimen, but more importantly, he was a pass rushing terror on the interior.
SC iDL Javon Kinlaw possesses raw, explosive power that you donâ€™t see every day. Splits the double team here for the sack on Jake Fromm. pic.twitter.com/UMfsnHKupp
— Jared Feinberg (@JRodNFLDraft) February 4, 2020
According to Pro Football Focus, he holds the second highest pass rush win rate among all interior defensive lineman in the 2020 draft class at 18.1%. His disruptive nature and ability to dominate, would be a great ‘consolation’ prize.
More pass rush is never a bad thing
Moving forward, the Raiders must acquire more pass rushers, regardless of the position. By adding any of the three aforementioned choices, they will automotive improve the entire defense. The responsibility of pressuring the quarterback should not be limited to edge defenders.
In a conference with mobile signal callers such as Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson; it starts with pushing the pocket from the interior. The ability to create pressure in the middle and force these signal-callers to the edge defenders containment consistently and effectively is pivotal to slowing them down.
Derrick Brown, Chris Jones, and Javon Kinlaw are more than impact players, they are game changers at a position where dominant pass rushing ability is rare.
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