Las Vegas Raiders; Maxx Crosby; Antonio Pierce

PFF: Raiders Defensive Line Deemed 9th Best, Too Low?

Pro Football Focus hasn’t been too kind to the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason; however, is their recent ranking of their defensive line too high, low, or just right?

Even when praise is given, it is faint.

Do The Raiders Have An Elite Defensive Line?

PFF’s Sam Monson recently released his rankings of defensive lines in the NFL, placing the Raiders ninth in the league.

Las Vegas was placed behind a mixture of proven units and groups that appear stout on paper. But just how high should the Raiders be ranked?

How about we dissect the team’s numbers and each roster placed ahead of them?

Pass Rushing

Let’s start with how well these core units get after the passer. If we tabulate the sack totals of the returning players for each defensive line, the Raiders tie for third with 33 sacks in 2023.

Total Sacks For Returning Players:

  1. Colts (43)
  2. Browns (36)
  3. Raiders/Steelers (33)
  4. Cowboys (28)
  5. Jets (27)
  6. 49ers (23)
  7. Lions (20.5)
  8. Eagles (19.5)

Some will be surprised by these stats, but Malcolm Koonce’s breakout helped bring Las Vegas’ total to another level. When you bring the new additions to each team into the mix, things begin to shift, but not much for the Silver and Black.

Team Sacks Including New Additions:

  1. 49ers – 45.5
  2. Jets – 45
  3. Colts – 43
  4. Raiders/Browns – 42
  5. Steelers – 36
  6. Eagles – 31.5
  7. Cowboys – 28
  8. Lions – 23.5

With the signing of defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, the Raiders add nine sacks and a major contributor to their rotation. Las Vegas may not have added as many new pieces as the Jets or Niners, but with the expected continued growth from Tyree Wilson and less attention on Maxx Crosby, 40-plus sacks is not out of the question.

Run Defense

Many would assume this is where the Raiders ranking would fall off a cliff. Las Vegas finished 21st in rushing yards allowed in 2023 (2015 on 4.2 per carry). However, the vaunted, top-ranked Jets finished 25th (2108 on 4.1 per carry). Even more intriguing is that both the Raiders and Jets finished the season allowing 10 rushes of 20 or more yards and one rush of 40 or more yards, respectively. While the Raiders allowed 15 touchdowns to opposing rushers, New York managed to limit them to just 14. Silver linings?

Rushing Yards Allowed (Best to Worst):

  1. Lions – 1509 (2nd)
  2. 49ers – 1525 (3rd)
  3. Eagles – 1758 (10th)
  4. Browns – 1793 (11th)
  5. Cowboys – 1910 (16th)
  6. Steelers – 1956 (19th)
  7. Raiders – 2015 (21st)
  8. Colts – 2105 (24th)
  9. Jets – 2108 (25th)

No one will confuse the Raiders with a stellar run defense, but in comparison to the other top defensive lines, they weren’t too far off. And while the aforementioned Wilkins will beef up the pass rush, he especially excels at stopping the run. We should expect to see a big jump from Graham’s run defense in 2024.

All Things Considered For The Raiders…

The Raiders should take issue with any defensive line ranking that does not place them in the top five or higher. Their pass rush was a force last season and only got stronger with their offseason additions. On top of that, they have youth that should continue improving this year.

Las Vegas will have plenty of axes to grind come September. Good luck to opposing offenses.

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*Top Photo: Getty Images

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