In 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders fielded one of the worst defensive lines in the league. After many changes, the unit looks to be at least passable in 2021. However, in comparison to the rest of the AFC West, where does it rank?
So where do the Raiders rank?
1. Denver Broncos
Projected Starters: Von Miller, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Bradley Chubb
Boasting one of the best defensive lines in the league, the Broncos rank number one here. How Von Miller returns from his season-ending injury in 2021 remains to be seen but he’s one of the best pure pass rushers in the NFL who has terrorized the Raiders for years. Bookending him is one of the best young pass rushers in Bradley Chubb. On the inside, the Broncos have an old friend in Shelby Harris who has blossomed into quite a force in the middle. The Raiders’ offensive line will have their hands full during these matchups.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
Projected Starters: Joey Bosa, Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, Uchenna Nwosu
Similar to the Broncos, the Chargers have one of the best pass rushers in the league in Joey Bosa. Despite playing in just 12 games last season, he recorded 7.5 sacks. He is arguably the best edge rusher in the league. On the interior, the Chargers boast a good duo with Joseph and Tillery. Los Angeles will be looking for fourth-year pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu to take a step forward as well. In the event that Nwosu is not up to snuff, look for them to bring back Melvin Ingram.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Projected Starters: Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, Taco Charlton
One of the stranger groups in the league, the Chiefs feature three very talented players along their line. However, Charlton holds this group back. Simply put, he may not even make most other teams. Regardless, the interior of the Kansas City defense will be a problem for every team they face. Chris Jones will build upon yet another terrific season as he proves he’s the best defensive tackle in the league not named Aaron Donald. Clark is currently battling legal troubles but will be a pesky pass rusher once again if, he can return to form.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
Projected Starters: Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, Clelin Ferrell
After many moves in the offseason, the Raiders defensive line has a lot to prove in 2021. On the inside, Las Vegas will have patented run-stopper Hankins next to a fellow big man in Jefferson. Another newcomer in Solomon Thomas is sure to provide relief for Hankins on passing downs. On the edges, the Raiders have a big free-agent addition in Yannick Ngakoue and former a top-five pick in Ferrell.
While Ngakoue is almost a guarantee to get about eight sacks, the Silver and Black need more from production from Ferrell. Of course, the group will also get production from last year’s sack leader, Maxx Crosby, who may even find himself starting once again if Ferrell disappoints. If the group can see improvements from Ferrell and contributions from new additions, it could skyrocket up this list.
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*Top Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images