In the biggest move of the NFL Offseason, the Oakland Raiders traded former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. A $100 million dollar deal for head coach Jon Gruden, who hasn’t coached in nearly a decade isn’t helping to sure up confidence in the Raiders. While replacing a future hall of famer isn’t easy, Oakland has the right defensive personnel in place to find success.
Having An Edge
With Mack gone, Oakland’s defensive line has several question marks. After parting ways with veteran linemen Denico Autry and Mario Edwards Jr, Oakland will have to rely on a young interior group to help tackle Justin Ellis sure up pressure. 2018 draft picks P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Mo Hurst have been impressive during training camp and preseason. While Preseason is to be taken with a grain of salt, Oakland defensive line coach Mike TrGovac has been promising. For the preseason, Oakland was t-12th with 12 sacks. Veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin has assumed a leadership role in Oakland. With Mack’s departure, Irvin will have to prove that he can win one-on-one and recover from a slow start in 2017. On the opposite end, the split of Key and defensive end Tank Carradine can’t hold Mack’s jock strap, but it may suffice. Key will be able to learn the ropes as a primary pass rusher, while Carradine can play three downs. TrGovac has gotten the most out of 2017 practice squad end FaDol Brown and near write-off Shilique Calhoun. These two ends give Oakland much-needed depth and rotation off the edge.
Learning The Ropes
While Ellis and Irvin become the centerpieces of the line with Mack’s departure, rookie development is key. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther excelled at creating pressure during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2017, Cincinnati recorded 41 sacks, tying for No. 11. To the contrary, Oakland has been basement-dwellers, ranking in the bottom-20 in sacks since 2015. As good as the trio of Hurst, Key and Hurst looked in preseason, facing first-team offensive linemen will be a process. Guenther’s creative genius will be tested in finding ways to create pressure and defend against the run.