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Chandler Jones, Maxx Crosby Raiders Pass Rush
Las Vegas Raiders

Evaluating Raiders Pass Rush Depth Behind Jones, Crosby

  • Ryan Fowler
  • May 17, 2022
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The Las Vegas Raiders have done their due diligence in the de facto arms race that has become the AFC West. While the Josh McDaniels tenure is officially underway, as is the dynamic duo of Derek Carr and Davante Adams, a look to the defensive side of the ball has raised a few questions towards the overall outlook – and expectations – if the Raiders eye their first divisional crown since 2002.

A three-year, $51M deal that will add yet another headlining name within the star-studded west, the addition of Chandler Jones will prove to be instrumental in the improvement of a defense that has ranked in the back-third of points allowed over the last decade . A two-time All-Pro coming off a 10.5-sack season, with Yannick Ngakoue now an Indianapolis Colt, it’s free rein for Jones and defensive end Maxx Crosby at the five-technique. Jones is one of the league’s elite edge-benders with multiple Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring to his name. The Raiders’ defense will now have to contend with such gunslingers as Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and the freshly announced Russell Wilson in the division. Therefore, a pat on the back is much deserved towards newly minted General Manager Dave Ziegler, who opened up the Brinks truck for Jones to ensure Las Vegas stayed competitive. 

The presence of Jones opposite Crosby will present a scenario of “pick your poison” for opposing offenses, and, in turn, present each player with increased one-on–one matchups. Where concern arises is in the depth of the Vegas front seven if either Jones or Crosby were to miss time. 

Las Vegas is a defense that will remain predicated on its ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, as we saw recently in Super Bowl 55, where the Tampa Bay front seven made life impossible for Mahomes and the high-octane Chiefs offense. Keeping Yannick Ngakoue would have surely helped along the front four as another pass-rusher to throw into the fire, but depth pieces Clelin Ferrell, a former first-rounder, and Malcolm Koonce could hold the key to the success forthe Raiders this fall.

Injuries – although unfortunate – are a part of the game and while both Jones and Crosby have remained relatively healthy in their careers, if any of Vegas’ dynamic edge threats were to miss time, the onus would fall immediately on Ferrell and Koonce to work into a larger role off the edge, whether they like it or not. 

The former fourth overall pick in 2019, it’s put up or shut up time for Ferrell, who’s totaled a substandard 8.0 sacks in three seasons. Initially looked upon as a cornerstone for the Raiders defense, his play has remained far from expectation and relying on him to consistently push the pocket, and, well, play like a top five selection has been a fallacy in his first three NFL seasons. 

That being said, I’ll be the first to say “give it time.” We’ve come to expect immediate results out of rookies these days instead of enjoying the process of player development. But you can throw that out the window when it comes to Ferrell. Lofty assumptions are what come with the territory of a high Day 1 selection. 

For Koonce, I’m excited about his second season. Although he appeared in just five games last fall, a healthy amount of pressures, 2.0 sacks and a few tackles for loss showcased an active, versatile player that could blossom into a high-level rotational defender when Jones and Crosby need a breather. You can never have enough athletes that can consistently push the pocket, and for Koonce, a third-rounder in last year’s draft, he presents a ball of clay to work with for Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham. Ultimately, he should be expected to earn a large amount of snaps countering an overwhelmingly pass-happy division. 

With a fresh face in Jones to pair with Crosby as the posterchilds of a youth-infused defense touting the likes of Trevon Moehrig and newly acquired Rock Ya-Sin in the secondary, the Raiders – on paper – with fresh leadership and new resounding voices in the locker room, have put themselves in a position to compete with their goliath inter-division foes. Yet, the depth up front in Vegas will remain a headlining narrative to round out one of the more impressive edge duos the league has to offer. 

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Ryan Fowler