The Las Vegas Raiders franchise was busy building up their defense this offseason, but how good can they really be in 2023?
Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders were once again one of the worst defensive teams in football, a reputation that has plagued them over the past 20 years. Despite new general manager Dave Ziegler attempting to revamp the roster on that side of the ball, they still struggled mightily all season long, and that helped lead the Raiders to a six-win season.
This offseason, the front office has looked to once again try to right the wrongs with the defense, spending free agent money and draft picks on all three levels. While linebacker was barely addressed, something that could hurt them in a big way in 2023, the Raiders did add to their defensive line and the secondary, two units that should be much improved this season.
How good can the Raiders defense actually be in 2023?
The key to the Raiders defense continues to be Madd Maxx Crosby, one of the premier edge rushers in the NFL. Crosby has been a star for the Silver and Black since being drafted on Day 3 back in 2019, and this offseason, Ziegler went out and got him some reinforcements along the defensive line.
The Raiders brought back Jerry Tillery at defensive tackle, and spent a third round pick on Byron Young, a punishing DT from Alabama. Las Vegas also added Tyree Wilson, a defensive end from Texas Tech at No. 7 overall, and he has the body and skill set to be a menacing presence opposite Crosby in 2023, and beyond.
Wilson and Crosby will also benefit from some added talent in the secondary, including Marcus Epps at safety, and David Long Jr., two defensive backs who have played in the previous two Super Bowls. Jakorian Bennett and Christopher Smith II were two excellent Day 3 draft picks for the Raiders, and both figure to get significant playing time as rookies.
The real issue now, is linebacker, as the additions of free agent Robert Spillane, and draft pick Amari Burney were not enough to fix the problems of last season. We could see some roster movement in recent weeks as the team tries to bring in some veteran free agents, but they will have to get some cap space to do so.
All told, I believe the pass rush will be better, and the secondary play could be very surprising to those experts that are down on the group. Nate Hobbs is an excellent slot corner, and there is enough talent on the outside to bring some heated competition this summer, something the franchise has been lacking.
In Year 2 of Patrick Graham's tenure as DC, we could see a major leap forward on that side of the ball.