Following some much-needed additions in the offseason, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will be looking to break the trend of fielding an uninspiring, and ineffective pass rush.
Throughout Gruden’s tenure as head coach, the Raiders have been notorious for having little to no pass rush. The totals are as follows: 13 sacks in 2018, 32 sacks in 2019, and 21 sacks in 2020. It’s safe to say the Raiders have found themselves as one of the worst pass-rushing teams in recent history. That being said, Gruden is not one to sit around and stare at the same problem for seasons on end.
Let’s take a look and see what their sack totals may look like this year following much spending on pass rushers.
Key additions for the Raiders
Most notably, the Raiders signed Yannick Ngakoue, reuniting him with former Jaguars head coach and current Raiders defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley. Las Vegas is hoping they’re getting the 2017 version of Ngakoue. That year, Yannick accumulated 12 sacks and ten tackles for a loss. While Ngakoue will surely be a difference-maker along the Raiders’ defensive line, even more money was poured into the interior of the line.
This was to hopefully create the interior pressure the Raiders have been missing. Signing former Buffalo Bill Quinton Jefferson, as well as former second overall pick, Solomon Thomas, proves that Gruden’s tired of watching opposing offenses manhandle his defensive fronts. High expectations now follow the Raiders after so much cap space was used in addressing the pass rush.
On June 16th, 2021, during a recent press conference, Ngakoue put the league on notice when he proclaimed that “Maxx (Crosby) and myself are the best duo that’s going to hit the scene.”
While this statement may be premature and hyperbolic, it’s indicative of something more important. This being that the Raiders’ young defensive talent must continue to develop and aid the new investments upfront.
The keys will once again be Clelin Ferrell’s ability to cause disruption in the run game, first and foremost. Just as important will be Crosby’s ability to get after opposing quarterbacks which should benefit from Ngakoue’s addition. All of this will also serve in developing younger talent such as the newly drafted edge rusher, Malcolm Koonce.
Needless to say, the success of the Raiders defense will rest on the shoulders of both the new additions and its returning youngsters.
Raiders’ sack prediction
The additions of Ngakoue, Thomas, and Jefferson will do wonders for the Raiders’ defensive line. Be that as it may, seeing them break the 40-sack mark might be unfeasible. The talent may be there, but it will take some time for the team to become fully acclimated to their new defensive coordinator. This is especially true with regards to new stunts, blitz packages, and pass rush-fronts.
While they may not break 40 sacks, it would be hard to believe this pass rush group won’t be better than the unspeakable atrocities of Maliek Collins, Arden Key, and many other fan favorites of past years. All things considered, I believe a sweet spot for a reasonable sack prediction is somewhere in the 36-39 sacks range. An improvement? Yes. A finished product? Definitely not. Look for the Raiders to build off their pass rush improvements as they move into their second season under Bradley, in 2022.
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Top Photo: Associated Press/D. Ross Cameron