Las Vegas Raiders young, talented up front on defense

Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Oakland Raiders. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Oakland Raiders. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage, and the Las Vegas Raiders have a strong, young group up front along the defensive line.

Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, the defensive line was an issue, as during the 2018 NFL season, the then-Oakland Raiders managed to muster only 13 sacks. That was by far the lowest total in the league, so when the team came up to draft at No. 4 overall in 2019, the expectation was they would select an edge rusher, specifically Josh Allen from Kentucky.

Well, the Raiders did add an edge rusher, but it was Clelin Ferrell from Clemson, who did not put up the kind of numbers Allen did in Year 1. The problem with Ferrell’s lack of stat sheet production was the fact that he played out of position most of the year, and lost a bunch of weight when he had to deal with an illness.

Ferrell came on towards the end of the 2019 season, but it was fellow rookie Maxx Crosby who was the team’s defensive Rookie of the Year. The fourth-round pick managed to post double-digit sack totals, including a four-sack game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Ferrell and Crosby set on the edges for the foreseeable future, the Raiders have a dominant, young tandem there. In the middle, the Raiders used two draft picks during the 2018 NFL Draft to bring in Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, who both played better in Year 2, and are going to be mainstays on this defensive line for years to come.

This offseason, the Raiders added Maliek Collins from Dallas, bringing in a guy who is solid against the run and the pass. The addition of Collins only adds to a position group that was rounding into a strength for Las Vegas, and they still have Johnathan Hankins to add to the mix as they enter the 2020 campaign.

In addition to Collins, the Raiders also added a quality edge rusher in Carl Nassib, who should take some of the pressure off of Crosby and Ferrell in Year 2. Finally, Arden Key will have to bounce back after an injury-riddled 2019 season, and the hope is he can come back healthy, and put on some weight entering his third season in the league.

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While the Raiders may not be done adding talent up front on defense, if they do roll into next season with this group, they are in very good shape. They have talented edge rushers, big bodies in the middle, and as they continue to revamp this defense, their defensive line has to be viewed as a strength.