The Las Vegas Raiders defense has made a massive statement to the rest of the league through their first two games. The critics could argue that they need to prove that this can be sustainable throughout the rest of the season to really buy in, which is understandable. However the strength of their first two opponents makes the defensive units production a bit more impressive. Going into this season, the Raiders put out six new starters on the defense.
Starting with the defensive line, the addition of Yannick Ngakoue has so far shown to be a very smart offseason addition. Max Crosby has officially made it known that he will continue to force pressure in rushing the passer. He flashed his speed in practice videos over the offseason and now his work ethic is starting to show results.
Crosby earned AFC defensive player of the week after Monday night football against the Ravens. He is now going to see more double teams, chip blocks, etc. in an effort to slow him down. Crosby (91.2) and Ngakoue (87.7) are both ranked among the top 10 in pass rushing grades this season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Through the first two weeks, the Raiders pass rush grade (87.7) ranks first in the NFL. Let that sink in Raider Nation, Derek Carr has a defense.
Much credit needs to be directed toward defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. His defensive scheme is designed to rush four without blitzing and playing a single high safety. The Raiders three total blitzes through two games is the fewest for any team in the NFL, however they’re a top eight team in total pressures generated with 46.
Bradley also played a role in signing CB Casey Hayward during the offseason after they had spent time together with the Los Angeles Chargers. Hayward has stepped in over Damon Arnette and been very impressive after Arnette failed to show worthy production on the field. Targeted only five times this season so far, Hayward has not allowed a single catch.
When the Raiders acquired Bradley, it was clear they let him have some control over personnel decisions in an effort to revamp a defense that has struggled significantly for way too long. Ngakoue sent former first round pick Clelin Ferrell to the bench and Arnette was another former first round pick that followed in Ferrell’s footsteps. So far, these moves seem to have played out better than most anticipated.
Don’t expect this defensive line to fade as the season progresses. This defense altogether seems to be a massive upgrade from last season and years past. With Carr doing what he’s doing with a broken offensive line and essentially no run game, this defense could very well make this an exciting season for the Raider Nation.