The Las Vegas Raiders are bringing back defensive David Irving. Will his return affect the Silver and Black’s inclination to go after an EDGE defender early in the NFL draft?
As April quickly approaches, the popular consensus is that the Silver and Black need to go defense early. Given how bad the unit played under Paul Guenther last year, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The question come draft day will be which position ranks highest on the Raiders’ big board. Obviously, only Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock know this no matter what mocks are saying. There are several talented EDGE rushers that will be available at 17 but with Irving returning, does this mean that position drops in priority?
The most popular scenarios have Las Vegas drafting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or Christian Barmore. Both positions, interior defensive lineman and linebacker, are critical needs but upgrading defensive end should be up there. The pressure and sacks Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby generated weren’t enough. Irving’s campaign last season isn’t much to go on, he only played 40 defensive snaps and had just one pressure.
Are the Raiders banking on Irving’s potential?
Given Irving’s history with Rod Marinelli, it shouldn’t be too surprising he chose familiarity over untested waters. It’s also possible that new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley sees potential with Irving in his system, particularly as a pass rusher.
Before issues with the NFL took a toll on Irving’s career, he had a promising 2017 season. That year, he amassed seven sacks, nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, and six passes defensed. Also, Pro Football Focus graded Irving’s pass rush at 83.1 that year.
The inherent risk in passing up some potential game-changing pass rushers in favor of Irving could be disastrous. The real question is whether the Raiders are getting the player from nearly three years ago or not. Resigning Irving could also simply be just the first step in a grander plan for the defense, for now, we’ll have to wait and see.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Brandon Wade