Improving a team’s pass rush is something all NFL general managers continually look to do, and the Las Vegas Raiders are no exception. Let’s take an early look at how the defensive line is shaping up.
One of the first moves that Raiders brass did in regards to their defensive line was bringing a new leader, former NFL head coach and Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The move was initially questioned as Bretson Buckner emerged as a popular coach thanks in part to HBO’s Hard Knocks, but the Raiders needed a proven commodity to elevate their unit. His resume speaks for itself as a defensive coach and with him, came a “pipeline” of Cowboys talent which has paid dividends this offseason.
The Current State
As far as the current state of the unit and in regards to the draft, general manager Mike Mayock opted to not use picks on it. This was probably the smart route as the current line has a wealth of talent. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal alluded to that fact recently, passing on defensive linemen means “the Raiders sent a strong message that they feel good about that unit.” The two biggest standouts are obviously Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell, both of whom figure to be the leaders of this unit for years to come.
While Crosby shined with ten sacks and four forced fumbles, Ferrell did struggle although Raiders brass believes it will work out:
“The goal, they [the Raiders] insist, is building a multi-dimensional defensive lineman capable of fulfilling his obligations in their 4-3 defensive scheme. And they believe Ferrell is on track to being the player they imagined upon investing such a high pick on him.”
Having been the subject of so much criticism, it’ll be interesting to see if Ferrell steps up,but more importantly, if Marinelli puts him in a position to succeed while being a part of Paul Guenther’s scheme, for now. Another piece the team’s hoping will emerge this season is Maurice Hurst, who has shown flashes of brilliance in the past. In 2019, he totaled three and a half sacks while getting in two quarterback hits, totaling six hurries for the season.
To supplement the young core of defenders, the Raiders added valuable veteran depth via NFL free agency. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer EDGE Carl Nassib was brought in. With 18 career sacks in four seasons fans should be excited about how Marinelli will utilize him. Besides Nassib, the other huge addition for the defensive line was ex-Dallas Cowboy Maliek Collins, who under Marinelli last year, totaled four sacks while totaling an impressive 21 pressures.
If you look at the possible line combinations the Raiders can use, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities. If opposing defenses have to double team Collins, Crosby could be left alone which would spell doom for quarterbacks. Perhaps we could also see Ferrell line up on the edge creating more mismatches that way too. For now, given the amount of talent and the coaching the defensive line possesses, there’s no reason Raider Nation shouldn’t be excited about this unit in 2020.
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*Top Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images