For the last three seasons, the Oakland Raiders defense struggled. Former defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr played a role. Despite this, “defensive minded” head coach Jack Del Rio failed to make many, if any changes throughout. Since promoting former Chargers’ coordinator John Pagano, the Raiders defense found new life. Pagano made the most out of a motley crew spearheaded by All-Pro Khalil Mack. However, the Raiders must address serious needs on the defensive side of the ball.
- Jaire Alexander (Louisville) – Injuries hampered the Raiders secondary all season. Cornerback David Amerson has battled concussions and foot injuries. Meanwhile 2016 picks Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu suffered season-ending surgeries. In addition, cornerback T.J. Carrie will test free agency. Plus, Sean Smith can be cut to save money. Raiders’ general manager Reggie McKenzie faces a dilemma regarding which corners to keep. While Conley and Melifonwu will return next season, the Raiders still need help. Jaire Alexander battled injuries himself, but his talent and potential could allow him to see his stock rise. Alexander excels in press coverage, and has the confidence, speed, and technique to be the best corner for Oakland since Nnamdi Asomugha.
- Josey Jewell (Iowa) – Drafting linebackers remains as the Raiders kryptonite for a long time. Since McKenzie took over as GM, he failed multiple times. With the great play of undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow, it is uncertain if he will take another linebacker early. That is why All-American Josey Jewell looks great for Day Two. Jewell is a superb mind on the field, a constant threat against the run that can cover as well as rush the passer. Raiders need a high-IQ linebacker that can quarterback the defense, whether or not NaVorro Bowman resigns.
- Maurice Hurst (Michigan) – The Raiders employ a cornerstone piece on the defensive line in Khalil Mack. Bruce Irvin resurfaced in the second half of the season to have another solid year. Nevertheless, the interior is a question mark. Mario Edwards Jr. cannot stay healthy. Justin Ellis is an upcoming free agent. Rookies Eddie Vanderdoes and Treyvon Hester enjoyed solid seasons. Too many years elapsed since the Raiders had a dual threat three-technique. One adept in run stopping and pass rushing. Maurice Hurst fills the bill, coming off a great career as the anchor of Michigan’s defense. A serious threat in the middle would free Mack of double teams. It is about time the Raiders succeeded in the trenches.
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