The players facing the most pressure in Week 4.
The revolving door at right tackle stops this week at seventh-round draft pick Vadal Alexander. He’s a mammoth of a man at 6’6″, 342 pounds, and was expected to play guard in the NFL due to a lack of outside quickness.
Funny how multiple lower leg injuries to multiple large men can lay plans to waste.
Center Rodney Hudson also missed practice earlier this week, but returned yesterday and looks on track to play this weekend. That’s good, because the Raiders are running out of lineman.
Alexander became the fifth player in three games to man the right tackle position for the Raiders. The RT position hasn’t been this decimated since Khalil Mack ate up the Broncos in Week 15 last year. Hi-yo!
Alexander filled in admirably, but wasn’t perfect. He’s a big man who’s a bit plodding and has some footwork issues. That could pose a problem against the Ravens.
Timmy Jernigan and Terrell Suggs will relish initiating the rook. Ravens rookie Matt Judon has been a pass-rushing beast since preseason. Baltimore may also be getting back another pass-rushing stalwart this week in familiar Raider foe Elvis Dumervil. He’s currently listed as questionable.
The Ravens have nine sacks this year, and the Raiders have given up only one real sack. The other ‘sack’ was when Carr ran OB slightly behind the line. They’ve also paved the way for the league’s second ranked rushing attack, even though they’ve had to shuffle personnel frequently.
It’s strength on strength, offense against defense. As outlined by JBB’s editor Nick Hjeltness, Alexander is a key X-Factor in this game. He’s also under pressure to keep up the stalwart play of this offensive line by providing platinum “Carr Insurance” and opening holes for Murray and the explosive duo of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. He’s under pressure to maintain excellence at the position against a tough, aggressive defense.
Khalil Mack, DE
Notice I put DE and not DE/OLB. That’s because Mack is playing, bafflingly, almost exclusively as a hand-down lineman this season. This is despite being the only person in NFL history — ever — to be voted All-Pro at two positions. One of those positions? OLB.
Now Ken Norton Jr. has a ring and was a heck of a player. Jack Del Rio was a Pro Bowler himself and knows defense. It’s tough to question men with that kind of pedigree — but I do.
Mack has special speed and bend off the edge. Those abilities magnify when he’s coming from a two-point stance. Having his hand in the dirt almost exclusively is limiting his ability to use his greatest strengths and diagnose plays from the linebacker position. Though he would never say it, the team-first Mack is likely a bit frustrated.
JDR knows Mack’s numbers will come, and I wholeheartedly agree that he’s had a bigger impact on the game than the box score indicates. It’s not his fault his linemates are taking advantage of the opportunities he provides them often enough.
Mack is one of the best defensive players in the game, and that means making impact plays. He’s yet to record a tackle for loss or a sack. Yes, he’s being double and triple-teamed every play. Yes he’s being held damned near every play as well.
Mack’s under pressure to get a sack or make a big play. This will alleviate any concerns of diminishing play. He’s an impact player every down even if the stat sheet doesn’t show it. The man is a beast and other teams know that — that’s why they devote all their attention to him.
With Baltimore’s left tackle Ronnie Stanley questionable for Sunday’s game, perhaps this is the week the drought ends.
An impact defensive play would not only help the team in a tough road game, but would also give the man a boost in the confidence department. We’ve seen what happens when Mack gets a boost in confidence. Brock Osweiler ends up in Houston.