The Raiders defense gave up the 21st most passing yards and the 26th most passing yards after the first four games. They are second to last in sacks with only four and in the bottom of the pack with two interceptions at the season’s quarter mark.
Maxx Crosby is the team’s sack leader but ranks 93rd of 110 edges, per PFF. Carl Nassib is 97th in the same category. Maliek Collins is 117th of 119 despite also being a coveted free agent signing.
However, Jonathan Hankins is ranked 15th of 119 defensive tackles and Mo Hurst is fourth with 89.4 grade in the same category. Clelin Ferrell has a 68.7 grade and Arden Key is the only other rotational d-lineman in the average or good category with a 60.7 grade. Football Outsiders is not more kind on the Raiders d-line. They have them ranked as 28th in run defense and 30th in pass rush based on opponent’s adjusted line yards and sack rates. Their strongest opponents were New England or New Orleans. That could also be attributed to their playmakers in the backfield and how quickly they get the ball out. Buffalo and Carolina are in the middle tier of lines per Football Outsiders.
Across the board, the Raiders have solid get-offs and play strength. Their good athletic traits make up for mental processing errors and give them solid play speed. They are good in pursuit and moving through traffic.
In the run, Hankins is very good at dropping anchor versus double teams and using his hands to stalemate blockers, free up backers and find the ball carriers. The d-line utilizes good leverage and hands to stalemate blockers. The ends are good at using their speed and length to seal the edge on outside runs as well.
Versus the pass, the defensive line is good at processing screens. They are good at getting their hands up into the passing lanes when they can’t get home to the quarterback. Edges are good at maintaining their path to the quarterback due to their hands, leverage and speed to power conversion. They maintain leverage and explosion on stunts. Overall, they can be explosive when free and closing on the quarterback.
Las Vegas uses a deep defensive line to keep their players fresh. However, motors can run hot and cold on long drives and late in games. Pad level gets higher, they don’t pursue as much and don’t necessarily find that extra gear on third down. Thus, competitive toughness is adequate to solid. Many players can give up their assignments with their stances, alignments, and personnel too.
Versus the run, the defensive tackles could be better at using their hands to shed blockers and stuff ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Collins and Hurst can get pushed around by double-teams due to their limited size and strength. On the edge, the ends can be too aggressive in pursuit and get beat by playfakes and misdirections. They can get upfield too far and create running lanes.
In the pass, the ends speed and first step aren’t elite enough to strike fear into opposing tackles consistently. Defensive tackles lack the hands and leverage to consistently push the pocket. Collins especially. Both groups also need to show more polished pass rush plans. Second and counter moves are not always strong. Edges and tackles will get stalemated when the first move doesn’t work. Ferrell, Collins, Nassib and Hankins need help in this category.
The Raiders defensive line has been far from good despite a change at defensive line coach and multiple free agents added. Players like Hurst and Key developing are bright spots. Hankins is consistent but isn’t a pass rusher. Ferrell is also consistent versus the run but still needs more in the pass rush category too. Madd Maxx offers a lot in the pass rush but he can get too aggressive. Collins and Nassib have been far from their free agency bill this far.
Either way, the Raiders defense relies heavily on their defensive line to create pressure without blitzers. They need more push from their interior rushers. Their edges are fast and explosive but they need interior push against the pass. Of course, some of that falls on a secondary that also leaves a lot to be desired. In the run, they create a lot of spaces for the linebackers to flow and fill. The LBs have not been great at executing which isn’t entirely on the defensive line.
Ultimately, this group is solid but they are missing the gamechanger. They execute but not to the level where they can bail out liabilities at ‘backer and in the secondary. Their rotation could also use some modification as Hurst and Key both could use more snaps.