Aldon Smith is the Oakland Raiders’ biggest X-Factor
Explaining why Aldon Smith is the Oakland Raiders’ biggest X-Factor in 2016.
The Oakland Raiders open training camp in less than a couple of weeks.
Unfortunately, they will be without their biggest X-Factor as Aldon Smith continues serving his year-long ban from the NFL.
What makes Smith the Raiders’ biggest X-Factor?
Simply, the Raiders won’t know what they have in Smith until he is eligible to return in Week 10.
Smith may not get his reinstatement into the NFL until sometime after Week 10. Either way, Smith comes back at the perfect time for the Raiders.
By that point, the Raiders will be coming out of their game with the Houston Texans in Mexico City. Smith’s first potential game back could be against the reigning NFC Champion Carolina Panthers.
Then Oakland plays potential AFC playoff teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, and all three AFC West division rivals. During that span, Smith will be a welcomed fresh pass rusher during the height of a potential playoff run.
On the field, Smith is a versatile pass rusher. He can lineup with his hand in the ground, or standing up. More importantly, Smith’s athleticism helps him rush the pass rusher while also maintaining contain.
Further, his length and strength will help the Raiders set the edge versus the run. Even if he only plays sub-packages, the Raiders could get a gamechanger on the edge.
By the playoffs, Smith should be fully integrated into the defense. He should know the scheme and work himself into playing-shape.
Smith will bring a welcomed change of pace for pass rushers like Mario Edwards Jr., Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, and Shilique Calhoun. That will strike fear into oppossing offenses’ hearts as those teams will be playing with banged-up offensive lines.
In the end, the Raiders really don’t know what they are getting from Smith. He kept getting better as the season went on in 2015. Smith finished the year with 3.5 sacks, 27 QB hurries, and Pro Football Focus gave him a 8.5 cumulative grade for the 2015 season.
However, no one can predict how a year away from the NFL will impact Smith. There is a chance he could lose his insticts, timing, and mental toughness. Moreover, the Raiders defensive line is so deep that he might not find sufficient reps to make an impact.
Nonetheless, the Raiders’ pass rush could make them into a Super Bowl contender if Smith plays like he has most of his career. You simply can not teach his athleticism or natural insticts to get to the quarterback.
Without Smith, Oakland may only finish as a highly competitive defense that contends for the playoffs.
Smith’s impact brings that wide a range of expectations for the Raiders. Hence, Smith is by far the Raiders’ biggest X-Factor.
We will find out what his impact is sometime during the 2016 season. Hopefully, Smith joins Oakland sooner rather than later.