Dec 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack (52) is defended by Buffalo Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn (77) at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
As old has he is, I’m still calling free safety Charles Woodson a part of the foundation because he’s a leader and still makes plays. Also in that secondary Tyvon Branch is apart of the foundation from the Al Davis era that remained. He’ll be back and that’s a big boost to the Raiders defense in coverage and run support.
We saw a glimpse of what 2013 1st-round pick D.J. Hayden can do along with 2014 4th-round pick Keith McGill and 7th-round pick T.J. Carrie. Then there’s a huge piece of the foundation in 2014 4th-round pick and nose tackle Justin Ellis. And please, let us not forget strongside turned weakside linebacker Sio Moore, who played well this year.
And of course the main foundation of this defense is strongside outside linebacker Khalil Mack. People were up in arms about his sack numbers but that’s not what 4-3 outside ‘backers do. He excelled against the run, in coverage and when given the opportunity, he rushed the passer very well.
He was among the league leaders in pressures in hurries even though he only rushed in nickel situations. The Raiders blitzed less that every 4-3 team in the NFL so there just weren’t many opportunities as the other team was always leading. But when the Raiders started to get in the lead and win a couple of ball game down the stretch Mack started to sack the quarterback.
I’m expecting Del Rio and Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. to move to a 3-4 this coming year and if not, they’ll at least activate Mack more rushing the passer. They’re also going to be ahead in games more often so I’m looking forward to Mack having double-digit sacks.
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