Starters: Justin Ellis, Maurice Hurst
Backups: P.J. Hall, Eddie Vanderdoes, Gabe Wright
Free agents: Johnathan Hankins, Clinton McDonald, Ahtyba Rubin
Last years draft saw the Raiders make defensive tackle a priority. They had no choice, really. They had no interior pass rush to speak of and at the time, that seemed like just the fix the defensive line needed. That was until they traded away their best pass rusher.
The first thing they did was re-sign Justin Ellis to a long term deal. It wasn’t a groundbreaking move. A better move would have been to re-sign Denico Autry but they let him leave in free agency. Ellis is a decent run stopper, but he’s never been more than a rotational nose tackle and offers nothing in the way of interior pass rusher.
Ellis missed most of the season returning from injury. So, after the first game of the season, the Raiders signed Johnathan Hankins and inserted him as the starter the rest of the way. Hankins was stout as a run stopper, but he too isn’t a great pass rusher.
For that, they drafted P.J. Hall in the second round and then got a lucky break in Maurice Hurst in the fifth round. Hall didn’t get much pressure either, while Hurst was one of the few bright spots on the defense and would lead the team with 4.0 sacks.
They had hoped Eddie Vanderdoes might return from the torn ACL he suffered in the season finale, but he would end up missing the entire 2018 season. He didn’t offer much even before the injury, so without major improvement, he isn’t even a lock to make the team.
This was a tough call. Technically they have the bodies to go into next season. What they will get from them is another story. Only Hurst has shown great potential among the interior linemen. Ellis hasn’t been great, Hall was a raw prospect from a small school, and Vanderdoes has shown exactly nothing and is coming off a major injury. They would be smart to re-sign Hankins, but that doesn’t mean they will. An improved outside rush could do wonders for this group.
What condition do you think the Raiders defensive interior position is in?
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