NFL

Raiders double dip at defensive end on day two

Former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis once said: “The quarterback must go down and he must go down hard!” Apparently, the current Raiders brass had that quote ringing in their ears on day two of the NFL Draft as the Silver and Black went with pass rushing defensive ends in back-to-back rounds.

Round 2: Jihad Ward (Illinois)

In round two, the Raiders went with a very similar player to the guy they got in round two last year: Mario Edwards, Jr. Some saw this as a bit of a reach in the second round, but Ward is a player with a ton of upside. In fact, most of what he has is upside since he didn’t really produce a whole lot in college — just 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in two seasons.

So what’s the upside? He’s got a massive frame while still moving with agility and can play at defensive end or move in to play defensive tackle on passing downs. The Raiders will need to get Ward into the weight room to clean up his physique a bit and then will need to do a ton of work on his technique. The good thing is that Ward has very little technique now so if he can improve his game from that standpoint, he has a lot of room to grow.

Round 3: Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State)

While Ward is a power guy who has some quickness, Calhoun is more of your traditional speed-type rusher. He isn’t a pure speed guy as he simply doesn’t have elite speed. Instead, he has decent power and enough speed combined with a good dip to get around the edge and after quarterbacks. In college he was also moved inside at times on passing downs, but he’s much better suited to play at the end position.

Unlike Ward, he was a very productive player in college (27 sacks, 44 tackles for loss) and is much more game ready for the NFL though his ceiling may be a bit lower than Ward’s.

Different but Similar

As you can tell, Calhoun and Ward have different styles but still bring the same value to the Raiders: Pass rushing and versatility. The Raiders will add Calhoun and Ward to this group of defensive linemen and outside linebackers.

  • Khalil Mack
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Aldon Smith (come November … if all goes well)
  • Mario Edwards, Jr.
  • Denico Autry
  • Dan Williams
  • Justin Ellis

That’s going to give defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. one hell of a group of players to use in a rotation on the front seven. Add an upgraded secondary to a group of defensive linemen that is so deep, they will all be fresh in the fourth quarter, and you have the makings of a massively upgraded defense for the Raiders.

There were clearly other needs that the Raiders could have addressed in one or both of these two rounds. They still need a backup running back, a middle linebacker and some more depth at corner and along the entire offensive line. But clearly the Raiders were in love with these players and as another equally played-out saying goes: “You can never have too many pass rushers.”

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