An impressive 2015 campaign saw Denico Autry flash his pass rush ability to the tune of 3.0 sacks. His 2016 expectations were high and Autry was counted on by many to be a force. Then he reported to camp with a brace on his right hand, starting camp on the PUP list.
The former undrafted free agent operated through much of 2016 with his hand wrapped and taped and it showed with his on the field play.
With only 1 hand he managed 2.5 sacks that season. As a result the Raiders offered Autry an original round tender as a Restricted Free Agent. The Raiders spent the off-season trying to find the interior pass rush Autry was unable to provide.
The 2017 Off-season saw Oakland draft interior pass rushers Eddie Vanderdoes and Treyvon Hester. Some thought Autry was done in Oakland and would not make it out of camp. With Hester and Vanderdoes grabbing all of the headlines throughout camp Autry was a forgotten man.
Denico responded by playing lights out in the preseason with a team high 7 QB pressures. Though he was unable to register a sack in his limited play in the preseason, Autry flashed consistently against both the run and pass. With his hand back to 100% again it appeared 2015 Denico Autry is back.
Autry set Hester up for a sack here. pic.twitter.com/Ly533HPNe2— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) September 27, 2017
By the end of preseason Autry was again seen as a valuable piece of a defense that desperately needed it. He opened the season strong against the Titans despite not recording a sack.
After only 2.5 sacks in 2016 Autry was itching to get his first sack. He would not have to wait long as it would come in week 2 against the Jets. Autry would split his first sack with Mario Edwards Jr. with both blowing right by the offensive lineman.
Autry and MEJ split this sack. pic.twitter.com/hhlLXmlmaZ— Chris Reed (@LVRaidersreview) September 27, 2017
Autry through 3 games had registered 5 QB pressures and half sack on 54 pass rushes, adding a tackle for loss and a pass defended at the line. Meanwhile 2016 second round pick Jihad Ward was rendered inactive in week 3.
Even with the return of Mario Edwards Jr and the addition of Eddie Vanderdoes, Autry remains a valuable part of the Raiders interior rotation which thus far looks much improved. Look for his strong play to continue and for his strong play to free up others like Khalil Mack to get to the quarterback.
Editor’s note: Levi Damien contributed to this article.