The Las Vegas Raiders head into the 2020 NFL season with a loaded defensive line that’s got plenty of potential. The numbers suggest rushing opposing quarterbacks not be an issue this year.
One of the biggest strengths for the Raiders in 2020 should be getting to the opposing quarterback. An improved defensive line ought to have no problems taking pressure off the second and third levels of the defense. In 2019, the Silver and Black saw the emergence of Maxx Crosby, who made a case for Defensive Rookie of the Year, leading the team in sacks with ten. For the sophomore, it was an excellent start to his career. Alas, for the Raiders as a whole needed more..
From a personnel standpoint, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock addressed the defensive line magnificently this past free agency. There were two free-agent additions that will help elevate this particular group, along with long-time coach Rod Marinelli assuming command of this unit. Maliek Collins, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, and Carl Nassib, who played in Tampa Bay last season, joined the Raiders.
Raiders: It All Starts Between The Tackles
As impressive as Crosby’s numbers were, the Raiders require more impact players in order to take their pass rush to another level. Surprisingly, Crosby totaled 31 QB pressures in 2019. By contrast, there was a steep fall in production after him. Benson Mayowa was second on the team with 15, followed by first-round pick Clelin Ferrell, who also had 15. You then look at the difference with the Cowboys, Collins had 21 QB pressures, in addition to four sacks, which is good considering he’s in the middle as a defensive tackle. Also, Maurice Hurst had three and a half sacks in the same position last season for the Raiders. In theory, you could be looking at anywhere between eight to ten sacks from the inside of the Raiders defensive line.
Look To The Outside
The Raiders had Ferrell play all over the defensive line in his rookie campaign. This led to his stats not being eye-popping, I do expect this to change under Marinelli. If the inside with Collins and Hurst proves to be a disruptive force, it will help Ferrell on the outside. The other EDGE rusher who could benefit is Nassib, who totaled six sacks and 17 QB pressures in 2019. In blitz plays, the former Buccaneers defensive end rushed the quarterback 84 times in Todd Bowles’ defense. While that number may fluctuate with the Raiders, his impact will be felt regardless.
A lot of how much the defensive line will impact the Raiders in 2020 will be how defensive coordinator Paul Guenther utilizes it. With Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski behind this line now, it might be best to blitz the passer more often, use this strength. While it’s way too early to say, if Guenther can’t maximize this talent, there’s no doubt Marinelli can do it after proving so with the Cowboys.
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