2021 Las Vegas Raiders Preview: Defensive Line

Raiders defensive line
“It’s hard to find great pass-rushers.” Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said it himself. As the Raiders have scrambled to try and replace Khalil Mack over the past three seasons, they have yet to see the results. The defensive line once again disappointed, averaging just 1.3 sacks per game. The Raiders spent the off-season adding a plethora of bodies to the defensive line, highlighted by veteran edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and veteran interior lineman Quinton Jefferson. The hope is that they have finally found the winning hand to succeed against the run and pass in 2021. Here is how the defensive line depth chart might shakeout.

Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Line 2021 Preview

The Starters: Yannick Ngakoue, Jonathan Hankins, Quinton Jefferson, Maxx Crosby

The Good

One thing about the Raiders defensive line is that there is a lot of upside to look forward to. Yannick Ngakoue is one of the best pass-rushers in football, a presence the Raiders have been lacking for years. With 45.5 career sacks, Ngakoue gives the Raiders some major oomph on passing downs that they have been lacking. His elite pass-rush skills along with Maxx Crosby hopefully taking the third year leap give the Raiders a lot of hope entering 2021. Even though they don’t have a lot of top-tier defensive line talent, the upside of rookie Malcolm Koonce, veteran Gerald Mccoy and Darius Philon give them hope at a much better rotation in 2021. With the totally inept pass-rush displayed since coach Gruden’s arrival, the Raiders can really only improve.

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The Bad

For what seems like the millionth season in a row, the Raiders lack a proven interior pass-rush. Even with the additions of Gerald Mccoy, Quinton Jefferson, and Solomon Thomas, the Raiders still have an underwhelming interior defensive line. Until they can prove it, all the new faces will be underestimated and undervalued amongst league circles. The Raiders released Maurice Hurst and David Irving, which came as a surprise, only to replace them with older players. While there is a chance they can thrive, the Raiders need a lot to happen to have a competent group here. Either Solomon Thomas or Darius Philon need to turn their careers around and become a good rotational player, or the Raiders need Gerald Mccoy to channel his younger self. Either way, this position group still has a lot of major question marks in 2021.

The Backups: Clelin Ferrell, Solomon Thomas, Malcolm Koonce, Darius Philon, Gerald Mccoy

The Bubble: Kendal Vickers, Carl Nassib, Darius Stills, Matt Dickerson

Final Defensive Line Analysis

Overall, the Raiders defensive line is improved over the 2020 group. However, there are still some major question marks. Will they get enough out of their third year players Ferrell and Crosby? Will the veterans hold up over a 17 game season? With all the questions, it’s tough to give them a good grade entering the season, but with some youth and talent there, this is one position group on the team that can have a breakout season, especially under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

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