Ranking the Raiders defensive position groups against the AFC West

The Las Vegas Raiders have been busy this offseason, making a handful of significant additions on defense, but how do they stack up against the rest of the AFC West?

Lazy loading placeholder

Raiders Maxx Crosby (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Free agency and the NFL Draft are over, which means we've reached the calm portion of the offseason. Every organization has its 90-man roster intact, so naturally, it's time to start comparing each team to one another, and gauge who has the advantage heading into the regular season.

Thus, how does each defensive position group for the Las Vegas Raiders stack up against the rest of the AFC West?

The Raiders set out to improve on defense during free agency, adding a few key players like Cory Littleton, Maliek Collins, and Damarious Randall. During the draft, head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock continued to address that side of the ball by selecting Damon Arnette, Tanner Muse, and Amik Robertson.

However, Las Vegas wasn't the only team in the division that was busy this offseason as Kenneth Murray, Willie Gay, and A.J. Boyue have all moved out west.

Here I take a stab at ranking each defensive position group in the AFC West to see how the Silver and Black compare to their rivals. Of course, the starters will carry the most weight but I'll also take depth into account.

Now, onto the rankings!

Defensive Line

Lazy loading placeholder

Raiders Maxx Crosby (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The Raiders have made a concerted effort to improve along the defensive line during the last two NFL Drafts, and added a key piece in Maliek Collins this offseason. They are stronger up front than they have been in some time, and that will be crucial as they enter their new era in Las Vegas.

1

Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Logo

Von Miller has terrorized the AFC West and the rest of the NFL throughout his career, as he ranks tied for 25th in league history with 106 career sacks and ranks sixth 216 QB hits. Even in a "down year" Miller still managed to rack up eight sacks last season.

Denver's defensive line goes beyond the future Hall of Famer, as Bradley Chubb, who had 12 sacks as a rookie, will return from injury, and the Broncos added five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey in the offseason. While a lot of attention has been turned towards the new weapons for Drew Lock, this defense has improved as well.

2

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs Logo

Many people were hoping the Kansas City Chiefs wouldn't be able to afford to bring back Chris Jones, but nonetheless, he and his 33 career sacks and 37 tackles for loss will stay in Kansas City for at least one more season. To make matters worse, Frank Clark gives the team a nice pass-rushing combo that will continue to be a problem for opposing offenses.

If the Broncos didn't add Casey into the mix, I'd give the Super Bowl champs the top spot here, but regardless, they'll still be very good upfront. It is pretty scary when you consider how good the Chiefs will be on both sides of the ball in 2020.

3

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers Logo

Los Angeles also has a couple of good edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Since 2016, those two have combined for 72.5 sacks and 154 quarterback hits. While Bosa and Ingram aren't the greatest run-defenders, the organization brought in Linval Joseph to pick up some of the slack.

Expect the Chargers to have a very good defensive line this season, as Bosa and Ingram are still in their primes, and are only going to get better. Of course, there are issues at quarterback for the Chargers, but the defensive line is going to keep them in games.

4

Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders Logo

The Las Vegas Raiders have made tremendous strides when it comes to the defensive line in the last couple of years. Maxx Crosby had a phenomenal season in 2019, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration, and the team brought in Carl Nassib who had 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in the last two years.

However, Las Vegas' group still isn't up to par with the rest of the division, and will be reliant on a handful of young players. Clelin Ferrell will have to take a next step in Year 2, and Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall need to continue their growth, but this young group has the talent to surprise people in 2020.

3 of 4

Linebackers

 

Lazy loading placeholder

Nick Kwiatkoski (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

One of the bigger areas of need for the Las Vegas Raiders entering the offseason, the team revamped their linebacker room, bringing in talented players who are going to have an impact right away. No longer a liability, expect this position group to make the biggest jump in terms of production this season.

1

Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders Logo

A year ago, the Raiders' linebackers were at the very bottom of not only the division but also of the entire league. However, the additions of Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski change all of that.

Littleton was a prized free-agent because he's been one of the best backers in coverage the last couple of years, and Kwiatkoski is a well-rounded player who just needed to find a place where he can get more playing time. Gruden and Mayock deserve a lot of credit for turning the team's weakness into a strength.

2

Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Logo

Alexander Johnson may not be a household name, but he had an impressive season in 2019, racking up 93 total tackles, five of which were for a loss. Meanwhile, Todd Davis has also quietly put together a nice six-year career, with back-to-back seasons of triple-digit tackles in 2018 and 2019.

What gives Las Vegas the leg up over Denver here is Davis' coverage ability. He allowed a passer rating of 106.8 when targeted last year, whereas Littleton's figure was 94.0, and Kwiatkoski's was 66.0.

3

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers Logo

The Chargers are a bit of a wildcard when it comes to their linebacking corps this season. Los Angeles is projected to start first-round pick Kenneth Murray and free-agent acquisition Nick Vigil, who had a good year in 2019 with 111 total tackles and a 72.9 passer rating when targeted.

It will be interesting to see how the revamped position group plays out for the Bolts. Murray was an Alpha at the University of Oklahoma, and many viewed him as the best pure linebacker in the 2020 draft class.

4

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs Logo

Finally, a position group the Chiefs are weak at! Anthony Hitchens was abysmal last season as he missed 12 tackles and surrendered a passer rating of 110.4 when targeted. Kansas City's other starter, Damien Wilson was better but still not good as he missed six tackles and gave up a 95.0 passer rating.

Rookie and NFL Combine freak Willie Gay will likely replace one of these two at some point, but he's a huge question mark since he only played in five games for Mississippi State in 2020. If there is one Achilles heel on this Chiefs roster, it is the linebacker group.

4 of 4

Defensive Backs

Lazy loading placeholder

Trayvon Mullen (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

The Las Vegas Raiders other big issue on the defensive side of the ball was in the secondary, where they had to bolster the cornerback position behind second-year starter Trayvon Mullen. They did that during the 2020 NFL Draft, adding Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson, before bringing in Prince Amukamara in free agency.

1

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers Logo

Los Angeles has an embarrassment of riches in its defensive backfield. The group features former All-Pros Casey Hayward, Chris Harris, Derwin James, and Desmond King, and they take our top spot in terms of the secondaries in the AFC West.

All four have played at very high levels recently and if 2019 second-round pick Nassir Adderly can stay healthy and put it together, this might be the best secondary in the entire league. The Chargers have quietly put together a solid defense on all three levels, which makes them a scary team this season.

2

Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Logo

The Broncos have two very good safeties in Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. Last year, Jackson allowed 278 receiving yards and a passer rating of 75.8 when targeted, while Simmons surrendered 288 yards and a rating of 43.6.

Denver does have a couple of question marks on the outside as A.J. Bouye is coming off a down year, and Bryce Callahan missed all of last season with a broken foot. However, both guys were good players in 2018 and can easily bounce back.

3

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs Logo

In just one season with the Chiefs, Tyrann Mathieu established himself as the alpha in the team's defensive backfield. The first-team All-Pro selection did it all in 2019 as he covered the slot, played in the box, and dropped back as a free safety. Cornerback Charvarius Ward also stepped up for Kansas City a year ago, allowing a completion percentage of 47.2 and a passer rating of 65.2.

The rest of the group, Juan Thornhill, Bashaud Breeland, and Rashad Fenton don't exactly strike fear into the opponent's eyes, but they are solid players who give the team a well-rounded secondary.

4

Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders Logo

Las Vegas has a lot of young, up and coming talent in its defensive backfield, but that's also part of the problem. Trayvon Mullen is the best returning starter, and he's only made ten NFL starts. The recent addition of Prince Amukamara will bring more experience to the group, however, he's not a lock to start after allowing a 66.2 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 105.2 last year.

The Raiders could easily head to Carolina with this starting lineup: Mullen, Damon Arnette, Damarious Randall, Johnathan Abram, and Amik Robertson, meaning only one player in the secondary has at least a full season of starting experience. Sure, Lamarcus Joyner could replace Robertson, but Joyner was abysmal last year and his spot is far from locked down. There is plenty of potential for the Silver and Black's defensive backs, but until they show some production on the field, the position group is a big question mark.

Next: Ranking the Las Vegas Raiders offensive position groups against...