HENDERSON, Nev. — And in the category of most understated yet painfully obvious statement of the recent NFL owners meetings, we present Exhibit A:

“I’d like to see some defensive progress [slight pause] for sure.”

Exhibit B?

“We didn’t quite get the Darren Waller [production] that could have really helped, helped us even more [dramatic pause] but that still wouldn’t have stopped teams from scoring. So …”

Yeah, the Las Vegas Raiders‘ defense was a problem last season, and owner Mark Davis, reflecting upon the lost campaign in a restaurant inside the posh Arizona Biltmore resort, was, in the parlance of the day, simply spitting facts.

Sure, the Raiders have a standout and foundation piece in two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby, but they have more question marks through the first waves of free agency heading into the draft than answers.


Such is the current state of the Raiders’ defense. Again, in early April.

That coach Josh McDaniels made only one real move on the defensive side of his coaching staff — replacing popular D-line coach Frank Okam with Rob Leonard, who had been the Baltimore Ravens‘ outside linebackers coach for a year — while retaining defensive coordinator Patrick Graham speaks to McDaniels’ quest for continuity.

Or, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, running the same scheme back again and expecting different results.

Though to be fair, eight of the 16 outside free agents the Raiders have signed thus far are on defense. Even if few of them are household names.

“We felt like we probably needed to add a quantity of players relative to either starters or depth,” McDaniels said at the meetings. “And the tricky part was based on the market of certain positions; it was going to be tougher to maybe address position A, and then you can’t really do much else because of the cost of it. So, [we] tried to weigh all those options out and see what made the most sense.”

Or, as general manager Dave Ziegler said, he uses free agency to address specific needs, the draft to select the best players available on the Raiders’ board.

Paging, then: S Marcus Epps, LB Robert Spillane, CB Brandon Facyson, DL Jordan Willis, S Jaquan Johnson, CB David Long Jr., CB Duke Shelley and DT John Jenkins.

“[We] felt like with Marcus and Robert and Brandon, we might have been able to get three starters at different levels of the defense there with a corner, a linebacker, a safety,” McDaniels said.

Then how does this current lineup sound for a starting nickel defense — DE Crosby, DT Bilal Nichols, DT Jerry Tillery, DE Chandler Jones, LB Divine Deablo, LB Spillane, slot CB Nate Hobbs, CB Facyson, CB Amik Robertson, SS Epps, FS Tre’von Moehrig?

The Raiders have also re-signed S Roderic Teamer, Tillery and LB Curtis Bolton on the defensive side of the ball.

“I think one of the things that’s lost a little bit sometimes is your ability to continue working with somebody, [it’s] sometimes overlooked in terms of their overall development and impact on the team,” McDaniels added. “So, we had some players last year that played roles, but could they be better in their second year? Could we be better with them in our second year coaching them … where you have an opportunity to come back and run it back again and see where we can go with it this year as opposed to just calling it a day after one year?”

The Raiders, who went 6-11 in McDaniels’ first season, a year after a playoff appearance with a 10-7 record, had the No. 28 total defense last season, giving up 365.6 yards per game. They were No. 29 in pass defense, No. 19 in rush defense.

Las Vegas’ six interceptions were tied with the New York Giants for the league low, and the Raiders’ 13 takeaways were the fewest in the league. The minus-8 turnover differential ranked 30th in the 32-team NFL.

All with Crosby racking up career highs in sacks (12.5), tackles (89) and tackles for loss (a league-high 22) and QB hits (36).

Yeah, Crosby was a problem, too. Just in a good way for Las Vegas.

“Maxx on the line, you know, the big body, is something the Raiders have always had,” Davis mused.

“Maxx pushes it to the limit, every play. If we can get him a little bit of help on the inside, it could be something. It was unfortunate he didn’t make All-Pro. But you’ve got to win.”

And therein lies Exhibit C.

Source link

Raiders owner Mark Davis desires ‘defensive progress’ – Las Vegas Raiders Blog