The Las Vegas Raiders have had subpar defenses for what seems like forever. In spite of the improvement from 2018 to last season, there’s still much work left to do. For that reason, it isn’t surprising to see Pro Football Focus rank the Silver and Black’s defensive line near the bottom of their latest ranking.
The Raiders went from horrendous to just subpar
The Raiders defense was atrocious back in 2018. That year, the unit gave up 6,102 yards and 467 points, good for 26th and 32th in the league. They allowed 5,677 yards and 419 points last season, 19th and 24th respectively. The 2019 season looks good by comparison but in reality, the defense just went from hideous to merely bad. The defensive line was in fact one of the units that saw an increase in production. They went from 10 for sacks in 2018 to 30 last season. One of the reasons for 2018’s minimal production was the departure of EDGE Khalil Mack. Once the team was able to add some players, their defensive line production went up.
Last season, the Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Although the former wasn’t a force at the line of scrimmage, the latter was a runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year awards. Ferrell accounted for 4.5 sacks, three hits and 18 hurries while Crosby had 10 sacks, five hits, four forced fumbles and 29 hurries. Despite the addition of the rookies, Las Vegas ranked #25 in sacks in 2019.
The Silver and Black needed to add reinforcements and that’s precisely what they did this past offseason. They signed defensive end Carl Nassib and defensive tackle Maliek Collins. Nassib should find a steady role for himself in the team’s defensive line rotation. On the other hand, Collins should take over one defensive tackle starting spot. WIth the addition of the two, the Raiders should expect their defensive line to keep trending up.
The Raiders defensive line additions weren’t enough
In spite of the improvements the Raiders made at their line of scrimmage, PFF ranked their defensive line as the 28th best in the NFL. Even though the advance statistic sites makes sure to point out the group’s strengths, they make a point to highlight a couple key points. First, they mentioned that plenty of the hype Crosby received last season was due to the fact he outperformed Ferrell, the 2019 fourth overall pick.
And while Maxx Crosby looked impressive as a rookie, a significant portion of his hype stems from the fact that he outperformed fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell.
Similarly, Ferrell’s production was on par with his draft pedigree.
Ferrell was a solid run defender but offered almost nothing as a pass-rusher, which is obviously an unacceptable return for the fourth overall pick in the draft.
PFF’s rankings aren’t absolute, and there’s thought process behind their reasoning. They aren’t absolute and can be debatable. Nevertheless, there is another reason to list the Raiders defensive line at the bottom of the NFL: The changes are good on paper, but until they produce results on the field, there’s no objective way to rank them higher.
Having said that, there was an increase in production from the Raiders defensive line last season. There is no reason to believe, they can take another leap in 2020.
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