Quarterback, pass rusher now strengths for Raiders

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Before free agency began, the two biggest needs that the Raiders had to address were quarterback and pass rusher. Through day two of the 2014 NFL Draft, Reggie McKenzie has filled both of those holes and then some. He has found a way to convert the Raiders weakness into their biggest strength.

Pass Rusher:

After the Raiders lost Lamarr Houston to the Chicago Bears, outside linebacker Sio Moore was the only pass rusher on the roster. But then Reggie McKenzie went on a shopping spree and signed Lamarr Woodley, Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith. Those three players alone combined for 22 sacks in 2013. To put that in perspective, the Raiders entire team only had 38 sacks last year. Tuck and Woodley are veterans that can still contribute both on and off the field. They are both leaders and can improve both Sio Moore and the Raiders fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Smith on the other hand can provide an anchor for the defensive line and help develop Stacy McGee.

At this point, the hole at pass rusher had been filled for the next two years. But then Reggie McKenzie created a mountain out of that pit when he selected Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Mack was regarded by some as the best pass rusher in the entire draft. Mike Mayock had Mack as his number one overall prospect. Dennis Allen even compared the star talent to Bronco's linebacker Von Miller.

Mack will step in at outside linebacker pushing Sio Moore to the other side. Suddenly, the Raiders have three defensive lineman that combined for 22 sacks last year. A young talent that can rush the quarterback effectively off the edge (Sio Moore). And a star pass rusher (28.5 sacks in his college career) that has the potential to become the best outside linebacker in the NFL (Khalil Mack). The Raiders top weakness just became their biggest strength.

Quarterback:

The Raiders entered the 2014 off-season with Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin as their starting quarterbacks. Those two were not going to lead the Raiders to the promise land. The front office realized that and traded for Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. This gave the Raiders a veteran capable of leading the Silver and Black to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Before Schaub hosted an interception party in 2013, he was regarded as a top 15 quarterback having surpassed 4,000 yards three times.

Now that Schaub was the starter and Matt McGloin was the backup, Terrelle Pryor was a wasted roster spot. So instead of just releasing him, Reggie McKenzie was able to trade him to the Seattle Seahawks for a seventh round pick. While that does not seem like a lot, it is more that the Philadelphia Eagles received for Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

While the Raiders had now temporarily filled the hole, one important question remained. Who was the Raiders quarterback of the future? While the Raiders thought that Matt McGloin was a serviceable backup, he was not their long-term answer. The only other option was to draft a quarterback.

Instead of reaching for a signal caller in the first round, Reggie McKenzie decided to stay put and wait to see who slipped to the second round. Sure enough, Derek Carr who was the number twenty overall player on Mike Mayock's Big Board fell right into the Raiders lap at pick 36. McKenzie realized that not only was Carr one of the best players available, but that he potentially could become the Raiders quarterback of the future. McKenzie pulled the trigger and once again, a seemingly bottomless pit was overflowing for the first time since 2004 when Rich Gannon retired.

The Raiders now have a solid starting quarterback (Matt Schaub), a quarterback of the future and potential Pro Bowler (Derek Carr), and a serviceable backup that can stay with the team for years to come (Matt McGloin). It is almost hard to remember that just a couple of months ago, the Raiders current third-string quarterback was their starter.

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