If these five defensive players on the Oakland Raiders can elevate their game this fall, they can improve the overall state of the Oakland defense in 2017.
For the Oakland Raiders to even dream about getting to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis this year, this defense has to improve fast. It has not been fun to watch miss assignments all preseason long.
While the Raiders went 12-4 last year, they won several close games in a shootout. Though the offense can more than holds it own, trying to keep winning that way is not a sustainable path to success. A great football team needs to be sound in all three phases and the Raiders have a long way to go to get this defense respectable.
That being said, general manager Reggie McKenzie has overhauled this defense with a bunch of young players the last few years. We’ve already seen Khalil Mack become a superstar in his second year in the league in 2015. Not to say Oakland has another dynamic defensive player of that caliber, but would expect a few young guys to get better on that side of the ball.
With the 2017 NFL preseason slate of games winding down, let’s take a look at five defensive players on the Raiders that could be key in righting this sinking ship on that side of the ball this season for the Silver and Black.
Defensive tackle Justin Ellis is entering his fourth season in the NFL out of Louisiana Tech. The Raiders took him with a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. While he has shown flashes that he can be a very good player along the Oakland defensive line, he hasn’t been the most consistent player as Oakland would have hoped for.
That being said, Ellis has worked hard this offseason to shed a few pounds. While being bulky on the defensive line is great in stopping the run, it can be tough to overcome when the opposing quarterback drops back to pass. Playing a little lighter on his feet could see Ellis be able to make a few plays in the backfield he otherwise would not be able to.
Add in that the Raiders are incredibly young along the defensive line to begin with and all that does is force Ellis to get better. It’s a motivator to have a handful of younger players vying for snaps along the defensive line from Ellis. He can also use this as an opportunity to mentor the entire front-four as one of the seasoned veterans of the group.
With the defensive line being in head coach Jack Del Rio‘s eyes the best part of the Raiders defense this season, a lot of that is attributed to the improved play we’ve already seen out of Ellis. Should he be able to sustain this into the fall, look for the entire defensive line to be better in 2017.