As far as momentum goes, no area of the Raiders team had more of it than their pass rush, which came alive in the second half of last season. Leading the way was Khalil Mack, who put up 11.0 of his 15.0 sacks in the final eight games.
That improved pass rush was quite surprising considering the losses of pass rushers Justin Tuck and Aldon Smith. Even more impressive was the patchwork secondary which was already among the weakest in the league before the loss of Nate Allen to injury. Which Mack or any pass rusher will tell you getting to the quarterback is often dependent upon the coverage skills of the secondary.
The signing of David Amerson was the one saving grace for the depleted unit. He was claimed off waivers from Washington prior to week three. By midseason he had become the best cornerback on the team, and a player around whom they could re-build the secondary.
"Pass rusher and coverage work hand in hand," said Mack. "We're doing all we can now in the D-line room to make sure we're ready. Make sure we're oiled and well-prepared for those guys."
Jack Del Rio made it clear they would make the secondary their primary focus this offseason. And with the loss of Charles Woodson to retirement, that task became even more urgent.
With Amerson in place, they had three spots to fill. They filled them with free agents Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson and first round draft pick Karl Joseph. This gives the Raiders solid starters across the secondary, something they haven't had in a while. Certainly not since Mack was drafted 5th overall two years ago.
"We want to be good enough for those guys as well knowing that you added pieces like Sean Smith," Mack continued. "Then we have big 42 [Karl Joseph] back there. He's not on the field with us yet, but we're just excited to see what he's going to be able to do for us as well. So yeah, very excited."
As Mack points out, the secondary helps them get sacks and the pass rush helps the secondary make plays as well. Undoubtedly Mack is envisioning the kind of sack numbers he could put up if you add a few coverage sacks.