Mixing Veterans with Promising Young Talent
In fairness, the Raiders haven’t completely ignored the defense over the last two years. Mayock and Gruden utilized six of nine 2019 draft picks on that side of the ball. In fact, they used five of the first six selections to improve a historically bad unit.
Yet, that’s not enough. Typically, a solid defense consists of a mix of high-upside talent and proven veterans. The Raiders only have half the equation with Clellin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Trayvon Mullen and Maurice Hurst showing promise over the last two years.
Now, the unit needs high-end contributors, closers and players who can produce in crucial moments while helping the younger, inexperienced talent grow along the way.
Here’s another point of emphasis. The Raiders don’t have to splurge on the biggest names set to hit the 2020 free-agent market. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and linebacker Cory Littleton aren’t the only possible solutions for the Silver and Black’s defensive woes.
Let’s briefly take a look at a mid-tier free agent for each level of the defense. These players will command a decent amount of cash, but they won’t cost the top dollar amount at their respective positions like Jones, Ngakoue or Littleton.
DE Robert Quinn
The Raiders hired defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to replace Brentson Buckner. Although the move didn’t go over well with a portion of the fanbase, the well-respect position coach could lure Robert Quinn from Dallas to Vegas.
This past season, Quinn made an immediate impact in his first year with the Cowboys, logging a team-leading 11.5 sacks. Marinelli calls him the “snake” for a good reason and the 29-year-old pass-rusher embraced the label:
Marinelli also has data to prove the importance of bolstering a defensive line, per Jon Machota, formerly of the Dallas Morning News.
“According to the long-time D-line coach, 65% of turnovers start in the pocket when defenses pressure quarterbacks into bad throws or knock the ball loose,” Machota wrote.
“He’s got some juice now,” Marinelli said about Quinn. “He’s got that quick first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league. He’s going to bring some good stuff for us.”
Benson Mayowa did a solid job as the veteran pass-rusher alongside Ferrell and Crosby. He logged seven sacks but only played 29 percent of the defensive snaps.
As a more complete player on the edge, Quinn could replace Mayowa, who’s going to become a free agent in March.