The Raiders pass rush was so bad in 2018 that it became an inspiration for 2019.
During training camp, coaches kept bringing up the team’s puny sack total – 13 – during drills and practices, taunting and goading players to be better.
Then, in a Week 1 victory over the Broncos to kick off this past season, the Raiders collected three sacks, including one by top first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell, a defensive end.
Said veteran defensive end Benson Mayowa after that three-sack team debut: "I don’t want to hear about 13 no more."
The Raiders more than doubled their 2018 total, getting 32 sacks. While that still ranked just tied for 24th in the NFL, it was a huge jump from being worst in the league, by far.
In fact, rookie defensive ends Ferrell (4½) and Max Crosby (10) combined for more sacks in 2019 than the entire defense a year earlier. Others who contributed in a big way were Mayowa (7), Maurice Hurst (3½) and Arden Key and Dion Jordan (2 each).
With a chance to add another pass rusher in the upcoming 2020 draft – where the Raiders have five of the first 100 picks – the pass rush could take another big step forward.
The 14½ sacks combined from Crosby and Ferrell allowed the Raiders to lead all NFL teams in sacks by rookies in 2019.