Four Questions: Is the pass rush improved enough?
All the Raiders defense heard for an entire offseason was the number 13. That’s how many sacks the unit had in all of 2018. 13 sacks was good enough for dead last in the league, and 17 fewer than the team ranked 31st.
A concerted effort was made since that time to address the pass rush situation. Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby were both rookies in 2019, and provided a spark to the pass rush, something that had been missing since Khalil Mack was traded prior to the 2018 campaign.
Ferrell, who was selected fourth overall, was a bit of a disappointment early on, only getting home for four and a half sacks, but he came on strong in the second half of the year. Fellow rookie Maxx Crosby had a huge first year, getting ten sacks, and putting himself in the discussion for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The combo known as Salt and Pepper played a large part for a defense that saw their sack numbers rise to 32 last season. The improvement was nice to see, but the lack of a consistent pass rush was very evident.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins was added to the mix this year to go along with edge rusher Carl Nassib, who will be expected to take the pressure to the next level for the Raiders. Collins, 25, has been a consistent force in the middle in his first four years in the league. The Raiders have been desperate for an interior push, and he could be the answer to their problem.
Nassib comes over from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after two of his best years, with 12.5 sacks in two seasons. Nassib is a high motor guy much like Crosby, and he will battle with third-year man Arden Key as the first man off the bench.
Speaking of Key, he, along with fellow members of the 2018 draft class, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst remain question marks. The trio was drafted with the hopes of becoming the building blocks of the defensive line, but now, as they enter year three, there are doubts if they will earn a second contract.
The best way to help a young secondary is to get pressure on the quarterback. Consistent push from both the middle and on the edges will go a long way in helping the Raiders make a playoff push in 2020.