Raiders' Front Seven on Defense Remains a Mystery

Has Oakland done enough to beef up its defensive front? As team heads toward training camp, big questions hover over the linemen and linebackers

The Raiders’ defensive numbers in 2018 were hard to look at. They were pure ugly.

Oakland was by far the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL with just 13 sacks. The Raiders also were the worst in points allowed (29.2) per game, while ranking 30th in rushing yards per game (140.6) and 26th in total yards allowed per game (381.4).

This offseason, the team made some moves to bolster that defense, drafting defensive end Clelin Ferrell fourth overall and bringing in a pair of veteran linebackers.

Still, the additions are an experiment, and fans won’t know if the Raiders are any better until after training camp, the exhibition season and Game 1 in September.

Not everyone is sold on what the Raiders have done this offseason to fix their defensive woes.

This week, NFL.com analyst Chris Wesseling wrote that the Raiders’ front seven on defense is among the NFL’s thinnest position groups. If it doesn’t live up to the hopes of head coach Jon Gruden, it could be another long season for the defense.

Wesseling noted that Oakland could have doubled its sack total in 2018 and still finished last in the NFL, and that six players in the league had more sacks than the Raiders. So, he believes the Raiders’ defense may need another year of growth to be good again.

Wrote Wesseling: “Although new GM Mike Mayock did address his biggest need with the selection of Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall, the rest of the acquisitions inspire little confidence up front. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall were deemed a step (or three) slow in Cincinnati and Denver, respectively.

“Former Cardinals defensive ends Josh Mauro and Benson Mayowa have combined for seven sacks over the past two years. Mayock will need at least one more loaded draft class before he can weed out the progress-stoppers on defense.”

The first players are expected to report to Raiders training camp July 23.

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