Starters: Mario Edwards Jr, Jihad Ward
Depth: Branden Jackson
Free agent: Denico Autry (RFA)
Last season the Raiders were missing an inside pass rush due in large part being without Edwards who was on injured reserve with a hip injury he suffered in the preseason, returning in week 16. His absence is a major reason why Ward got so many starts as a rookie second round pick.
Where Edwards does his best work was against the run and that’s also where Ward struggled mightily. He was consistently pushed off the line in the run game and failed to generate a single sack on the season.
Jackson was an undrafted rookie last who saw action in just three games. He will again compete for a roster spot next season.
Autry has been an unsung hero of the defensive line the past couple seasons. He was the closest thing the interior had to a pass rusher and has a knack for batting down balls at the line. Having gone undrafted in 2014, he is a restricted free agent, which means the team will have to put an RFA tender on him, which I expect they will do. A second round tender should do it.
Condition: Touch and go
Edwards has been injured in each of his two NFL seasons, first a neck injury as a rookie, then his hip injury before last season. We are still clinging to a few games as a rookie as our basis for what he brings to the table – two injuries ago. Ward didn’t offer any such signals he was destined for great things, so the jury is very much still out on him. Bringing back Autry is key. Bringing in a versatile pass rushing interior defensive lineman could really help bolster this unit.