Don’t look now, but after ten games, the Raiders have the fewest sacks of any team in the NFL with a total of 15 sacks. Quite a feat considering just last season Khalil Mack was second in the league with 15.0 sacks all by himself.
Not surprisingly, Mack has most of the team’s 15 sacks this season (8.0), which means he is basically doing the heavy lifting by himself. The next man on the roster in terms of sack totals is Bruce Irvin with 3.0 sacks.
Irvin came over from Seattle in the offseason and was supposed to take pressure off of Mack on the other side as well as have some success of his own due to Mack’s presence. We’ve seen some of that, but not nearly as much as the team likely hoped or expected.
By this point the team was supposed to have had help arriving in the form of Mario Edwards Jr and Aldon Smith. But that hasn’t happened yet and no one is sure if/when it will.
Edwards was lost to a hip injury in the preseason that had the team place him on partial season injured reserve. He has been eligible to return for three weeks now and still hasn’t even begun practicing, which he was eligible to do after week six.
Aldon Smith’s one-year NFL suspension was up November 17, but his reinstatement was always under the consideration of the commissioner and Roger Goodell has not given the ok yet and heading into his second game missed since being eligible to return, there’s no telling when Goodell will lift the ban.
The lack of sacks, and the subsequent 28th ranked pass defense, hasn’t stopped the Raiders from putting up the AFC’s best record (8-2) and in position for the top seed in the playoffs. Up to this point, it’s been their offense that has come to the rescue in most of their wins this season.
It’s odd when you consider the two teams just ahead of them among the lowest sack totals are the Browns (16) and 49ers (17), who are easily the worst teams in the league.
The Raiders aren’t complete outliers, however. The Giants and Chiefs are also in the bottom ten in sacks and both teams sit at 7-3. For the Chiefs part, they have been in a similar boat as the Raiders, being that their All Pro pass rusher Justin Houston was on injured reserve the first part of this season. But he returned last week so things are looking up for them.
Next up, the Raiders face a Panthers team that knows full well how much damage a good pass rush can do. They saw their 2015 Super Bowl season come to a sad end with Cam Newton terrorized by Von Miller and the Broncos’ dominant pass rush.
This season Newton has been sacked 25 times – fifth most in the league. To make matters worse for him, he’ll be without his All Pro center Ryan Kalil.
So, perhaps the Raiders can pull out of the cellar in the sack category and hold out another week as they wait for reinforcements to arrive. If they can’t, and Newton is allowed room to run and time to throw, it could be a long day.