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PFF ranks Raiders pass rush highly, but division foes higher

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Oakland Raiders v San Diego Chargers Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Today, Pro Football Focus released its rankings of the best pass rush units in the NFL. The Raiders got some respect for their efforts at revamping their anti-air attack this season, coming in at #13.

“2017 was technically a down year for Mack, and he still was a nightmare for opposing offenses, with 11 sacks, 13 hits and 55 hurries off the edge. The fact that his career so far suggests that he should be even better than that again this year should send shivers down the spines of quarterbacks around the league. The big question for the Raiders is who else can deliver pressure on a consistent basis to support him, with Mack being responsible for 31.7 percent of their total pressures last season. Hurst is someone we were very high on in the pre-draft process. Obviously the question with him is his health, but he was dominant as a pass-rusher in 2017, producing eight sacks, 15 hits and 26 hurries. Another candidate is rookie Key, who could be a steal if he gets back to his early college form much like the aforementioned Landry. Key produced 12 sacks, 13 hits and 29 hurries in 2016 at LSU, but took some time off and struggled to make the same impact in 2017, producing just 28 total pressures,” says the article.

Although Hurst has yet to play a down of NFL Football, PFF is completely enamored of him as a collegiate pass rusher. He earned a rating of 96.8 for his last year at Michigan, which is one of the highest scores I’ve ever seen for a player. A few days I asked you all, what player from another team would you add to the Raiders? Many of you replied “Aaron Donald”. But if PFF’s assessment is anything to go by, Oakland may already have a comparable player on its roster. Combine that with Arden Key, who went in Round 3 after some projected him as a Top-5 talent early in his LSU career, and the Raiders have some tremendous weapons in the front seven that will give opposing quarterbacks fits.

Of course, there are other teams in the division, and two of them have frightening pass rushes as well. The Los Angeles Chargers of South-Central Milpitas are ranked #3 on this list.

“Were we looking purely at pressure off the edge, the Chargers would certainly be number one. The combination of Bosa and Ingram at either defensive end position is deadly, and the Chargers saw 151 of their total pressures come from the duo. They were the only team in the NFL to feature two edge defenders who finished the 2017 season with an elite (90.0-plus) PFF grade, and there’s no reason to expect them to slow down much in 2018. The bonus in 2017 was Liuget producing the best year of his career, adding 26 total pressures from the defensive interior.”

The Chargers’ edge-rushing duo is one of the many reasons they are, on paper, one of the top teams in the AFC. But the Chargers usually look good on paper because they always have good skill position players and big name defenders, and they look good for a while until something derails their season- sometimes it’s injuries, sometimes it’s bad field goal kicking, sometimes it’s the 1994 49ers.

The other team with a top pass rush is the team that for so long has neglected all its other needs to focus on that rush- the Denver Broncos. Instead of being smart and drafting Quenton Nelson, John Elway decided to get cute and take DE Bradley Chubb instead. So now every Broncos game will have an average of 15 sacks between both teams. Third string QBs, step right up and earn some money!

The Broncos are ranked #7 on this list:

“Miller remains one of the premier edge defenders in the NFL, racking up 83 total pressures in the 2017 regular season. Our key signature stat for pass-rushers is pass-rushing productivity, and Miller has ranked in the top three among 3-4 outside linebackers in that regard in each of the past three seasons. Where the Broncos could do with a boost, is opposite Miller. Ray has flashed, but injuries have limited him so far in his career, resulting in just 86 total pressures over his first three seasons. They used a top-five pick on NC State edge defender Bradley Chubb, who produced 58 total pressures in his final college season, while Barrett has flashed throughout his career and racked up 43 total pressures from 324 pass-rushing snaps in 2017. Should just one of those three step up opposite Miller, or if they can do it by committee, the Broncos should once again cause serious problems for opposing offenses.”

The GOAT, Shane Ray, will miss the first month or so of the season after yet another wrist surgery, his fourth in his short career. Hey Shane, I know of a certain medicinal herb that will help with the pain of surgery recovery. Plus, it’s even legal in Colorado.

Every team in the division except the suck-ass Chiefs at #26 has a pass rush in the top half of the league. But only the Raiders hold the advantage in dealing with that, because they’re the only team in the division with an above average offensive line, according to PFF’s rankings. Derek Carr should be just fine.

But as for Phyllis Rivers, Pick-6 Mahomes and Case Kleenex? Raiderdamus has a prediction.