Three reasons to have hope the Raiders defense will improve
With week one right around the corner, fans couldn’t be more confident about the Oakland Raiders offense or more worried about their defense. If all of the offseason talk about a Super Bowl run comes to fruition, it will be because the Raiders defense turned out to be better than anyone expected. Because that’s the only thing that can hold this team back. The offense is elite and the special teams is among the best, if not elite as well.
Hope for a Super Bowl run lies in the defense, but is there a reason to have hope for the defense? Here are three reasons to still be hopeful that the defense will be good enough to get the Raiders to the promise land.
Mario Edwards, Jr., Eddie Vanderdoes, Treyvon Hester
Three players, one reason: Interior rush. The Raiders had elite play from their edge rushers in 2016 with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. The problem was they had no pass rush from the interior of the defensive line. None. And that’s why the Raiders had the fewest sacks of any team in the league while also having an edge rusher who was named Defensive Player of the Year.
Last year, the hope was that Mario Edwards, Jr. would return from injury and dominate. This year, the hope has a lot more to it. This year, the Raiders have three guys who are capable of being disruptive forces on the interior of the defensive line. Rookies Eddie Vanderdoes and Treyvon Hester both impressed in the preseason and look ready for rotational roles right away. That adds depth and a rotation that can change based on who has the hot hand. This season, there is a big reason (or three big reasons) to expect an improved pass rush.
Ok, so this one is a pretty big if, but IF Gareon Conley is who we thought he was when the Raiders drafted him, it’s going to be huge for this defense. Yes, it’s only one player and he can only cover one receiver. But the receivers he can cover are the kind that no one else on the Raiders has had much success covering. He fills a hole that the Raiders really need to be filled. Again, he’s only one man and can’t overhaul the entire defense, but remember, we just need the defense to be above average and good corner play will go a long way towards that goal.
If you’ve followed me for very long, you know that I believe a major problem with the Raiders defense is the coaching. I don’t believe Ken Norton, Jr. is cut out to be a defensive coordinator but luckily for him and us, John Pagano is. And whether Pagano takes over as defensive coordinator or is just there to tell Norton when he’s making mistakes, having a good defensive mind on the defensive coaching staff should help. We will see how much it helps but his presence alone gives me more confidence in the defensive coaching than I had at any time since Norton has been the defensive coordinator.