Is The Raiders’ Front Four A Major Question Mark?

It looks like we’re going into yet another year of Las Vegas Raiders football with questions on defense. Perhaps, the biggest question mark will be the new front four.

There are doubts for all three levels of the defense, with the unit as a whole having a lot to prove. Considering the production these past few years under the previous defensive regime, Gus Bradley will have his work cut out as the new defensive coordinator. Along with a new system, the Raiders’ front four received somewhat of a makeover this offseason. Be that as it may, multiple additions, a few subtractions, and a need for high production leaves this group as the biggest question mark.

Who did the Raiders add?

Yannick Ngakoue seemed to be on his way to the desert a few times over the past few seasons. Starting off this year’s NFL free agency period, it finally happened. Raider Nation was ecstatic, and then some question marks started to come about. Bringing in players such as Quinton Jefferson, Solomon Thomas, and Darius Philon received mixed reactions. Jefferson is listed as the starter on ESPN next to Johnathan Hankins, which should not be a surprise. Jefferson has been the most productive of the other three signees, yet is still not an impact player in the middle.

Thomas, a previous number three overall pick, has been largely a disappointment. And his struggles mostly stem from the pass rush. Philon hasn’t played a meaningful snap since 2018 due to an aggravated assault charge. It is a ‘potential‘ filled group. And if they can’t reach their potential, that group will be in the most trouble on the defensive side of the ball.

Some additions by subtraction were made…

It is tough to say that the Raiders lost really any impact players on the defensive line. Mainly because there wasn’t much talent on the line, to begin with. The release of fan-favorite Maurice Hurst Jr. ruffled some feathers in Raider Nation, but that quickly subsided. Arden Key has been ruffling Raider Nation’s feathers since he came into the league. The “Almost Sack” king was sent packing as well. Both Hurst and Key then ended up in San Francisco, which effectively severed ties between the Nation and those players.

As most of us know, Bradley’s system does not use a heavy amount of blitzing. The front four have to get pressure themselves. By adding Ngakoue, with Maxx Crosby or Clelin Ferrell across from him, he should bring a good amount of pressure this season. This is assuming that Crosby will benefit from a decreased workload given he was more effective with fewer snaps in 2019.

This is all in theory of course, with football still a few months away, so there are still a lot of questions. One of the biggest being, can Rod Marinelli get the best out of these guys? If he can, it has the potential to be a solid group. But that is a big if.

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*Top Photo: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal

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