The Raiders defense has not been getting much good press this off-season. Through most of last season, they were the worst defense in football. So bad in fact that it took a rebound final month to keep them from being ranked as the worst in football in just about every category.
It is because of those numbers that they are being written off by most analysts and prognosticators. If they hope to outplay their doubters, it will take an instant playmaker. And according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, that player is rookie third round pick, Sio Moore.
The Raiders were bereft of playmakers on the defense last season and Rang tabs Moore as "the big-play specialist the Raiders have been searching for at linebacker for years."
Moore led UConn with 15½ tackles for loss in 2012, which gave him an eye-popping 43 for his career. His sack numbers increased each of his three seasons as a starter (1½-6½-7½), and he developed into a savvy defender in coverage as a senior (11 pass breakups) as well, showcasing the versatility necessary in today's NFL.
Some scouts believed the Huskies' aggressive defense inflated his statistics, but Moore's recognition and burst through gaps made him a terror at the East-West Shrine Game and as a late addition at the Senior Bowl (where he was coached by the Raiders). Moore followed up his impressive all-star exploits with a terrific all-around performance at the combine, where the 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker clocked in at 4.62 seconds in the 40-yard dash, lifted the bar 29 times and posted a 38-inch vertical jump.
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Everyone was very aware the Raiders needed a pass rush specialist in the worst way. They lost three of their top four pass rushers this off-season - Desmond Bryant, Matt Shaughnessy, and Richard Seymour. That just left Lamarr Houston who was tied for the team lead in sacks last season (4.0).
The Raiders didn't address the defensive end position until the team very last draft pick when they chose David Bass in the seventh round. I asked Reggie McKenzie about this following the draft and he was quick to mention Sio Moore as a pass rusher and therefore proof that he hadn't ignored the need for a playmaker to rush the quarterback.
"We felt like we got a couple of guys that can rush the passer," Reggie McKenzie said of his 2013 draft class. "We think the third-round pick, Sio, can come off the edge a bit. We think David Bass can come off the edge some... sometimes you look into the certain draft classes and you try to identify a gamut of pass-rushers."
The linebacking corps was an issue last season but while the improvement there will help keep them from being embarrassed, any hopes of the team being competitive lies in their pass rush. The Raiders are putting a lot of faith in this rookie third round pick to step up and fill that pass rushing void.