The Raiders did not feature much in the way of splash signings on the defensive side of the ball. In retrospect, it can be easy to crush the front office for not prioritizing the middle or back end of the defense, even considering their draft picks. Most of that criticism would be fair with the only exception being that Reggie McKenzie has long been making decisions with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack’s contracts hanging over their heads. Even with that in mind the Raiders cannot have a repeat of the following players.
After signing his original round tender, Denico Autry has performed well in the last few weeks and has likely already earned a spot in next season’s rotation. With just one sack in the first eleven weeks Autry has seemingly turned a corner and posted three sacks and three passes defensed in the last three weeks. He still sometimes has issues with his gap integrity but he has been better in the middle and really seems to have developed a solid pass rushing rhythm. His next step will have to be learning to dominate the Point-Of-Attack with consistency in the run game. Too often he gets moved out gap. With poor linebacker play behind him, he can be the culprit of some of the bigger gains.
Originally to man the middle , Jelani Jenkins did not make the finalroster. He was injury waived and by the Raiders on the final cut down. After struggling to beat out rookie Marquel Lee and demoted to second team, Jenkins had no role. The Bills released him. Now, he grabs snaps for the Texans. His signing disappointed Raider faithful. They hoped that the Raiders would sign Zach Brown to fit in the middle. By then, it became clear that the Raiders seemed prepared to enter the season with linebacker issues.
Technically this is cheating but NaVorro Bowman has been the crown jewel of the Raiders defensive Free Agency class. He signed in the earlier half of the season. San Francisco needed to move on, and the Raider defense imploded. He immediately paid dividends by helping to make key plays against the Kansas City Chiefs. Just four days after signing, Bowman became the quarterback of the defense. Yet for all of his many faucets, Bowman still has coverage issues. . In the same game where he was making stops behind the line of scrimmage, Travis Kelce scored a touchdown. While Kelce does this to most, it only served to remind that the Raiders needed so much more from everyone. Look for Oakland to re-sign him. e