Rushing the passer should be one of the Las Vegas Raiders’ biggest strengths in 2020. That being said, are the two defensive end spots already set in stone as training camp gets underway?
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden landed two foundational pieces last year. Las Vegas’ brass drafted defensive ends, Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, to begin the defensive line’s redesign. Crosby, for his part, had an impressive season, to say the least, not to mention he was a steal in the fourth round. Ferrell came in with much higher expectations as the fourth overall selection. We all remember the now legendary reaction by some in Raider Nation with the pick’s announcement. Nevertheless, Ferrell has quietly positioned himself for a breakout season in 2020.
Getting go the quarterback is the foundation of any great defense, both Mayock and Gruden know this so they’ve made sure to address it adequately. Both Crosby and Ferrell are potential stars but there’s still more after NFL free agency this year. So how does the position look like in 2020 as we head into NFL training camp?
How Deep Are The Raiders At Defensive End?
Crosby only started ten games and still managed ten sacks. A closer look reveals an even more positive outlook, Crosby totaled 14 hits, 16 hurries on 750 defensive snaps last year. That kind of production is superb and with more playing time, those numbers will explode in 2020. On the other hand, Ferrell caused quite a conversation due to his apparent lack of production. He totaled four and a half sacks, five passes defensed, and one fumble recovery. Not exactly eye-popping stats, however, some fans might not understand Ferrell was used all over the defensive line. Even with 648 snaps, the opportunity to get to the passer didn’t present itself consistently enough last season. That will surely change this upcoming season.
Reinforcements Should Alleviate Individual Pressure
The Raiders shored up the defensive tackle position with Maliek Collins who will be joining Johnathan Hankins and Maurice Hurst Jr. For that reason, Ferrell will not see time in the interior at all. Of course, we can only assume defensive coordinator Paul Guenther knows this as well. Another factor that will take the pressure off Ferrell is the addition of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Carl Nassib.
Hailed as one of the Raiders’ most underrated free agency signings, Nassib’s potential impact could be big. Here at the Raider Ramble, CJ Errickson highlighted Nassib earlier this year.
“In 2019, the majority of Nassib’s snaps (291) came from the left outside linebacker in Tampa Bay’s 3-4 defense. As an edge defender, his most defining trait was effort. In 2019 alone, the former Penn State product generated 36 quarterback pressures and six sacks for the Buccaneers. As a run defender, Pro Football Focus deemed him to be in the top 30 of all EDGE defenders in the STOP % (The percentage of a player’s run defense snaps where he was responsible for a stop) category.”
Nassib’s ability to generate pressure on a consistent basis was lacking at the end position last season. With a relatively inexperienced secondary, pressuring the quarterback should be a priority for the Raiders. Under new defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli, the unit and Nassib in particular, will be placed in positions to excel. A much stronger and talented defensive line should help both Crosby and Ferrell dominate the pass rush. Barring injury, the 2019 rookies should come out of camp as the starting defensive ends but with much better backup behind them. Raider Nation should be salivating at this unit’s prospects in 2020.
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*Top Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press