Oakland Raiders

Raiders could have serious problems defending the pass in 2015

The Oakland Raiders have spent much of this free agency period upgrading their run defense. However, that has come at the cost of neglecting their pass defense. In a league that passes more than ever, this could come back to haunt them in 2015.

Through two-plus weeks of free agency, it’s become clear that the Raiders plan to rely on a trio of young corners in 2015. There were plenty of opportunities to upgrade their depth at the position, but rather than sign someone like Tramon Williams or Chris Culliver, Oakland brought in James Dockery, a guy who will primarily play special teams.

It’s not entirely surprising considering the fact that earlier in the offseason, general manager Reggie McKenzie said that he had faith that D.J. Hayden, T.J. Carrie and Keith McGill were ready to take the lead.

Surprise, surprise — not many share McKenzie’s faith.

Hayden has yet been able to stay healthy for a full season. Carrie played a lot in his rookie season and did well, but he didn’t earn a starting role until late in the season. McGill, on the other hand, barely saw the field in his first year as a pro.

Relying on the youngsters might be OK if the team had a vaunted pass rush that could make things easier. Unfortunately, the Raiders’ ability to pressure quarterbacks is closer to nonexistent than it is to being fear-inducing. The Raiders currently have three defensive ends on their roster: Justin Tuck, Shelby Harris and Benson Mayowa. Combined, those three players had six sacks in 2014. The team had a total of 22 sacks last season, good for second-fewest in the league.

The Raiders do have Khalil Mack, who spent a lot of time rushing the passer in 2014. After a slow start to the year, Mack was only able to put up four sacks. The team fully expects he’ll increase that number in 2015, but that alone will not be enough. Let’s say Mack had three times as many sacks last season. That would have only put the Raiders at 30 on the year, good enough for 28th in the league. Still not very good.

Of the 10 free agents added this offseason, not a single one is an edge rusher or cornerback who will actually make a difference for the team next season. Surely Reggie McKenzie will be targeting pass rushers in the draft, but one has to wonder if it will be too little too late.

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