NFL

Raiders have almost matched their 2014 sack total … but it’s not enough

The Oakland Raiders have 19 sacks, which puts them just three shy of matching their total for the entire 2014 season. However, the pass rush is one of the bigger issues on the defense.

Defensively, the Raiders had two major areas of concern last year. Because while there were holes all over the field, a lack of good corners and good pass rushers was a huge detriment to the team. It’s great coach speak to say that a team needs to stop the run first and foremost, the truth is that in the modern NFL you need to be able to rush the passer and cover receivers. Period.

Unfortunately, these are still the two biggest areas of concern for the Oakland Raiders defense in 2015.

Both units are better than last season, but they are still nowhere near where the Raiders need them to be. And now that Aldon Smith will miss the rest of the season due to suspension, the pass defense loses one of its best players.

Smith was a little slow to acclimate to the team, but once he got going we all started to see the guy who was a terror in San Francisco. Before getting suspended, he was second on the team in sacks and hurries.

Another loss came after Week 5, when defensive end Justin Tuck went on injured reserve due to a torn pectoral muscle. Tuck and Smith are tied for the team lead in quarterback hits with five (according to Pro Football Focus).

Everyone knew going into the season that the corner situation was sketchy at best and terrible at worst. The only hope was that an improved pass rush would mitigate the lack of talent at corner. Unfortunately, the pass rush simply didn’t improve enough to make much of a difference.

The Raiders are in the bottom third of the league in nearly every major (and minor for that matter) defensive statistical category. They desperately need something to improve if they want to get to the .500 mark by the end of the year. And despite losing Smith, pass rush might be the most likely area of improvement.

Khalil Mack is playing better after nursing a hamstring injury most of the year. He leads the team with five sacks (one more than his 2014 total) and 35 hurries. As he continues to get healthier, his play should continue to improve.

The Raiders have also come to realize that they have a pretty good player in Mario Edwards, Jr. Despite not seeing significant snaps until Week 5, Edwards is already fourth on the team in sacks with 1.5, and third in hurries with 11. Last week, Edwards had his best game of the year and was nominated for the Rookie of the Week award. If there is any upside to the injuries this season it’s that Edwards is getting a lot of experience and is improving every week.

Led by Edwards and Mack, this defense can still improve the pass rush. And they’d better do it because that’s the best hope for this defense this season.

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