There's a reason pass rushers are the most coveted defensive position. They are the most likely defensive position to be taken at the top of the draft, and good pass rushers are among the highest paid players in the league.
Last season the Raiders went 3-13 with statistically the worst pass rush in the NFL. This year it was thought they would improve. Khalil Mack coming into his second season after putting up great pressure numbers as a rookie was to be the primary reason why. Adding Aldon Smith along with Justin Tuck had Ravens head coach Jon Harbaugh saying the Raiders were one of the best pass rushing teams in the league. Yet, though two games, that has not proven to be the case.
We are just two games into the season, but the Raiders are one of just two teams in the league without a single sack. The other team is the 0-2 Bears. It also might not be a surprise to you that the Bears are the only team in the NFL who has given up fewer points (79) than the Raiders (66).
Not many teams can give up 33 points in each of their first two games and still come out with a win. Last week it took late game heroics by the Raiders' offense to outscore the points the defense gave up. A win is a win, so the locker room was all smiles postgame, but there is still the lingering lack of a pass rush.
"It matters to me," Khalil Mack said of the pass rushing woes. "It matters to this team. It matters to this defense. That's one of the things that we have to look at, assess and get better. We have to move forward, and hopefully next it will be a different outcome defensively because we want to win all the time. Keep getting wins."
Despite getting consistent pressures and hurries last season, Mack could muster up just 4.0 sacks - a number the coaching staff was open about wanting to see go up.
Head coach Jack Del Rio takes some blame off the pass rushers for the lack of sacks, shifting some of it to the defensive backfield's ability to not give the quarterback a receiver to throw to.
"We feel like pass defense is rush and coverage," said Del Rio. "As we do a better job of making the quarterback hold the ball, it will give our rush a chance to get there and get him down. When we have, we haven't quite closed the deal. We've been close on some, but those numbers are gonna come. We've got some talented guys going after it."
Whether the issue is more the pass rushers or the secondary giving them time to get to the quarterback, the defense can't continue like this and expect to keep winning.
As it stands now, the Raiders defense has given up the most yards per game (444.5), yards per play (6.6), and the most 4th down conversions - they have given up a first down on all three 4th down conversion attempts this season.
Additionally they've given up the third most first downs per game (25.5) and the third most touchdowns (7) behind only theBuccaneers and Bears.
Then there's this interesting little stat from last Sunday's game against the Ravens which shows they can't even get pressure when they blitz.
Per STATS, the 18 pass blitzes w/out a sack were tied for the most by #Raiders since at least 1998. Had 18 twice in 04 and in 12 vs Pit— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) September 23, 2015
I do believe the Raiders' pass rush will improve and sacks will come. Also with quarterbacks Josh McCown and Jimmy Clausen coming up, their yards and points given up should also come down. The pass rush performance as a whole must improve though because the schedule only gets more difficult after that.