Considering how bad the Las Vegas Raiders defensive line has been, they can only go up in 2021. Be that as it may, do they have something special brewing with that unit now?
The Silver and Black have had some promise within their defensive line these past couple of years. Most notable has been Maxx Crosby, the 2019 fourth-round selection, who has shown noteworthy talent getting after the quarterback. Though he ran into a sophomore slump, a more talented defensive line along with fewer snaps could see him make a big splash. This isn’t to say he can’t handle the load but rather, we’re going by what happened when his snaps increased from his rookie year. Seemingly now an afterthought, Clelin Ferrell’s expectations continue to diminish. Despite being the former number four overall selection, he has yet to be deemed worthy of such a pick.
Realizing that both Ferrell and Crosby wouldn’t be enough, the Raiders signed Yannick Ngakoue. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley now finds himself with a defensive line full of potential. Yes, it’s potential because we haven’t seen what these three can produce together. Regardless, this will give Bradley a chance to put together something special in 2021.
Raiders DE Yannick Ngakoue believes in this unit
Ngakoue recently went as far as saying that he and Crosby are already one of the best duos in the NFL. No doubt Ngakoue is underrated considering his consistent production and Crosby has yet to peak. Nevertheless, this claim might be a stretch, though there’s nothing wrong with having confidence in your teammates. Interestingly, Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report did recently point out Crosby played through injuries in 2020. By adding Ngakoue, you could have something big in Crosby’s third year.
Maxx Crosby had 7 sacks and 32 QB pressures, which ranked within the top 20 last year. Toughed it out with a torn labrum and broken metal plate in his hand.
Year 3 could be a big growth year for him. Then you add in Ngakoue. #Raiders may finally have a respectable pass rush.
— Maurice Moton (@MoeMoton) June 16, 2021
Also, lost in all this is how much flexibility Bradley will have this season. Optimally, you would think that Bradley would want all three (Ngakoue, Crosby, and Ferrell) on the field at the same time. Why not slide Ferell to the inside with Solomon Thomas, meanwhile, Crosby and Ngakoue man the edges.
On the contrary, Crosby did appear to be more effective when he played less. Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reminded us of this recently, Crosby had three more sacks (10 to 7) seven more tackles (26 to 19), and only three fewer pressures (45 to 48) in the 750 snaps he played in 2019 compared to the 905 he played in 2020.
Whichever route that Bradley takes in regard to these defenders, the results should be positive. If all three are healthy in 2021, the Raiders could have the making a potential ‘Big 3’ on their defense.
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*Top Photo: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal