Raiders Re-Sign or Realign: What to do about Denico Autry

November 22, 2015: The Oakland Raiders defense lines up in the Detroit Lions end of the field during the game on Sunday afternoon, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)

The Oakland Raiders were dead last in sacks this season with a measly 25. This despite the fact that they had the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year and Bruce Irvin, a guy they signed in free agency to specifically improve the team’s pass rush. Both Irvin and Mack had good years, combining for 18 of the 25 sacks the Raiders accumulated.

Irvin and Mack were not the problem. The problem was that no one else really showed up in the pass rush this season.

Denico Autry, however, was neither great nor terrible. His stats were slightly better than last season with a few more tackles and half a sack more than 2015 on a similar number of defensive snaps. If you add the sack numbers of Mack, Irvin and Autry, you get 20.5. That means the rest of the team combined for 4.5 sacks on the season.

The problem is, many thought that Autry was only scratching the surface with his play in 2015. Because of that, it was believed he would continue to show improvement this season. Instead, he looked much like he did in 2015 except maybe not quite as impressive. Because while his stats were very similar, he just doesn’t show up on tape as a disruptive force like he did last season.

It’s not that Autry took a huge step backwards this year, it’s that he didn’t really take any steps forward. His stats are fine for a rotational backup but Autry was getting starter snaps. The only defensive lineman who got more snaps than Autry this season was Khalil Mack.

But while Autry may not have had the season many were hoping for, that doesn’t mean the Raiders should move on from him. The problem with Autry is more likely that he’s a very good backup being asked to start. If the Raiders can upgrade the defensive line and bring in some new talent, Autry can find a role that he is more suited for. Having a guy like Autry come off of the bench as a sub would greatly improve this defense. The starters on the defensive line struggled this season but the lack of depth is as big if not a bigger problem.

In his time with the Raiders, general manager Reggie McKenzie has made a name for himself by finding talented players deep in the draft and as undrafted free agents. And of the many names McKenzie plucked from obscurity, Autry might be the best of the bunch.

The Raiders shouldn’t pay Autry like a starting defensive end in the NFL and they won’t have to as a restricted free agent. Based on the price tag alone, Oakland should definitely bring him back.

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james arcellana

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