Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Depth at Defensive End a Concern for Oakland Raiders


Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

 

The need for pass rush in a division ruled by Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers can’t be overstated. The Oakland Raiders ranked 21st in defense last year, and 27th against the pass…not exactly inspiring numbers.

Reggie McKenzie has brought in two dynamic pass rushers in Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley, who in 2009 might have been the top pass rushing duo in the NFL. But in 2014, are more solid upgrades than redefining players.

Both Tuck and Woodley are veterans who bring a winning pedigree, but also concern for health and decline. Woodley has been hampered by injuries over the past three seasons, missing 14 games in total. Woodley is dynamic when healthy, but lingering injuries do not tend to go away as you get older. It is hard to knock Justin Tuck as old, he is only 31. But in football years it is a slight concern. To me, I belive pass rushers who rely on intelligence, strength, and technique over elite physical talent the way Tuck does, can be very effective even late in their careers.

Before the Seattle Seahawk’s dominate defense brought them a Lombardi, it was Justin Tuck and the Giants who won Super Bowl’s with defense. The Seahawks used the Giants model, acquiring numerous pass rushers, and unleashing them on opposing QB’s. The Oakland Raiders would be smart to follow that model to success.

Jan 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Outside of Woodley and Tuck, the Raiders depth at defensive end is a serious concern. Furthermore a new class of young talent at the position is sorely needed.

Current backups Jack Crawford and Ryan Robinson leave a lot to be desired. Both are young and unproven, and at best project as developmental prospects who are best suited for minor roles in 2014.

Jack Crawford is an intriguing prospect. The 6-5, 281lbs defensive end out of Penn State was a 5th round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft,  and has all the physical talent to be effective. But like fellow UK breed tackle Menelik Watson, Crawford is short on football playing experience.

Ryan Robinson the undrafted rookie from last year, has been a solid special teams player, but is far from a starter at DE. Robinson beat out David Bass last off-season, despite Bass being projected as a possible late round steal for the Raiders. Bass was eventually cut and picked up by the Bears.

Injuries to either Tuck or Woodley would be a disaster for the Raiders. A lack of pass rush in this division, while playing the leagues toughest schedule in 2014 would be a tall mountain to climb. An effective pass rush is the most important element to a defense, and is the key to help improve a poor pass defense.

Looking ahead in the draft, the Raiders could bring in several young playmakers at defensive end, while allowing Tuck and Woodley to mold them into eventual starters.

Outside of Jadeveon Clowney, the DE class of prospects in this years draft is rather thin. I predict Clowney to be off the board long before the Raiders pick at #5, which will force Oakland to look deeper in the draft for pass rushing talent.

A possible target in the mid to late first round is defensive end Kony Ealy out of Missouri. Kony Ealy is a  long armed, quick twitch athlete who is an ideal 4-3 defensive end. While Michael Sam got many accolades and attention for his play last year, it was Ealy who was drawing double teams and the opponents best pass blockers every game. At 6’4 273 Ealy has great burst and awareness, and has a knack for creating turnovers.

Kony Ealy would serve well as a supreme backup to Tuck and Woodley, while learning the craft from two of the best. Other notable rookie defensive ends to watch are Scott Crichton, Jackson Jeffcoat, Kareem Martin, and Marcus Smith. Oakland could double up on defensive ends this draft, and keep the pass rush coming.

Available free agents include Will Smith, Anthony Spencer, and two former Raiders Jason Hunter and Andre Carter. Smith the former New Orleans Saint seems to be the popular option, and is familiar with Dennis Allen from his days in the NO.  Anthony Spencer the injury prone, yet effective pass rusher is not set to be available until training camp after micro fracture surgery. Two former Raiders Andre Carter and last years starter Jason Hunter are also still unsigned, and could bring added depth and experience.

In conclusion, the Raiders would smart to pick up some young talent at DE in this years draft. One or two additional pass rushers would wreak havoc on opposing QB’s. Remember in today’s NFL….you can never have too many pass rushers.

Note: This is not a “Mock Draft” or prediction for the #5 Pick. This is about depth and options for Raiders. Trade down, Free Agent and mid-round possibilities.

 

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft 2014 NFL Free Agency Justin Tuck Kony Ealy LaMarr Woodley Oaklan Raiders Will Smith

  • Kevin Lurker

    Your spot on. Mack would get the same result and strengthen pass coverage. However that’s not adding depth to the position of DE. Crawford has the measurables and we’re one injury from him starting. I think this all ties in to DT as well.
    You could take Donald and get to the QB. Best value @#5 can’t be who is mentioned. IMO.

  • Josh Carley

    I think everyone is missing out on de. Clowney is a clown. 3 sacks really even own coach questioned his work ethics. Jamarcus Russell anyone. De from byu Kyle van hoy would be way better great work ethic could pick up in later round and great character.

  • Carl Elftman

    The question for the Raiders aand the fans are you building a team to win the Super Bowl this year? Then wait for another 10 plus years to return to the playoffs. I have been a fan since 1960 and have seen the ugly and the greatness of the team.
    What I would like the team return to their greatness for the next 20 plus years.
    But, now we need to build the team. So draft the team to be there in the next 5 years and beyond.

  • Josh Carley

    Kyle van noy’s stats for 1 bowl game are Recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two touchdowns, one interception for a 17-yard TD return, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick in BYU’s Poinsettia bowl win vs. San Diego State

  • Josh Carley

    That’s 1 post season game.

  • David Jones

    …and if that idiot RM has resigned Houston we would not thin at DE.

  • Chris Kelley

    Does anyone remember that draft picks are not a sure thing and can be big busts too? I wanted Megatron over Jawalrus Nohustle. regardless of need, you take the best available or trade back. We can still pick up a DE or two as teams make their final cuts. Reggie has done well and is constantly putting out a better product.

  • Rees Britton

    and we wouldn’t have money to fill other positions. Know what you are talking about before you open your Raider hating mouth! Im sure you had no problem with Al spending way to much money on loser players that didn’t deserve it… Houston was an alright player that got more money elsewhere. It had nothing to do with RM intelligence level, but I wouldn’t expect such a dult to understand how to run a business. If you don’t like what they are doing then go root for the forty whiners, because us real Raiders fans are sick and tired of hearing you morons spout off like you are an actual fan… get lost!

  • Rees Britton

    is this even english??? Do you know how to structure a sentence?