Oakland Raiders: 2014 Positional Grades, Jack Del Rio Thoughts

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Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) leaves the field against the Denver Broncos in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line: B-

Despite the issues this defense had at times and some very poor performances, the team did show flashes at the end of the season and overall did fairly well against the run. At a minimum, this was one of the more disciplined Raider defensive lines in terms of gap control that I have seen for a while. The drafting of Jelly Ellis has found the team an anchor inside. CJ Wilson needs to be brought back as a utility defender, Smith should return as a role player, and Tuck as well. In fact, Tuck would be advantageous to keep in order to attract a guy like Pierre-Paul. McGee was a disappointment and I want to see more from him. Autry had some moments and so did Lumpkin, but I do expect two free agents pending scheme, and a drafted player.

Linebackers: A-

Regardless of the struggles of Miles Burris, this was the unit the Raiders depended on. The drafting of Khalil Mack has given this defense and fundamental building block and the growth of Sio Moore shows me a set of book end outside linebackers that I love long term. If Nick Roach returns he should not be a starting middle linebacker, but rather a nickel coverage specialist. Similarly, Burris needs to be a special teams expert, and utility outside linebacker that is allowed to attack downhill. When Burris is in space he is garbage, but if he is allowed to attack the line of scrimmage, he will make plays. What this team needs is a two down mike linebacker that is a big thumper inside.

Cornerbacks: B+

People love to point to DJ Hayden and say he gave up six touchdowns this season. I watched each one, and only two of those do I truly attribute to DJ. The young trio of corners that this team has moving forward is extremely exciting. Hayden, Carrie, and McGill are three corners that have differing skill sets and can be diabolical once they gel. Carrie as a seventh round draft pick was extremely impressive. Of course, if it was not for his injuries he likely would have been a mid round draft pick.

What is great about Carrie is he is a physical tackler, he can play the slot, and he can be effective in the return game. McGill had a solid showing against Denver week 17. Hayden is not nor will he ever be a shutdown corner, but he will make plays. Hayden needs to be allowed to play press man and make plays on the ball. He tackles well and will force fumbles.

Next: Positional Grades: Safeties Special Teams