We’re in the beginning stages of the offseason for the Las Vegas Raiders and recently, we took a look at the All-AFC West offense for the 2022 regular season. So, now we turn our attention to the other side of the ball and sort out the defense, which wasn’t filled with nearly as many Raiders.
EDGE: Maxx Crosby (LV) and Khalil Mack (LAC)
There’s no debate when it comes to Maxx Crosby’s candidacy here. He’s one of the biggest All-Pro snubs of the year after proving to be one of the league’s best pass rushers with 81 pressures, third-most in the entire league, and he led the NFL with 22 tackles for loss.
While there is some room for debate when it comes to Khalil Mack, he ranked second at the position within the AFC West with 56 pressures and eight sacks. The former Raider also gets credit for picking up the slack and keeping the Chargers' defense afloat while Joey Bosa was out for most of the year.
Defensive tackle: Chris Jones (KC) and Dre’Mont Jones (DEN)
Like Crosby, Chris Jones was hands down the best player at his position in the division. His 77 pressures were the most among AFC West defensive tackles, leading second-place Dre’Mont Jones by 32, and Jones’ 15.5 sacks led the division regardless of position. The unanimous First-Team All-Pro also earned the highest run defense grade from Pro Football Focus (78.0) and had the second-most defensive stops (31) compared to the rest of the competition.
There were a handful of candidates for the second defensive tackle spot, though, including the Raiders’ Andrew Billings. However, Dre’Mont Jones just filled up the stat sheet more with the pressures noted above, 6.5 sacks — tied for second — and the third-most defensive stops (25) among AFC West defensive tackles. Jones also was a three-down player whereas Billings’ impact was primarily limited to the running game.
Linebacker: Nick Bolton (KC) and Alex Singleton (DEN)
Denzel Perryman made a strong case to earn a bid here but ultimately, missing five games was just too much to overlook when there are other strong candidates.
Nick Bolton enjoyed a breakout year with 180 total tackles, the second-most in the NFL and the most in the division by 17. Perhaps even more impressively, he also had the lowest missed tackle rate among AFC West linebackers at 5.4 percent. Alex Singleton wasn’t too far behind as he was no. 2 for total tackles and missed tackle rate (6.5 percent) at the position within the division, and he led the way with a 79.1 grade from PFF.
Cornerback: Patrick Surtain II (DEN), L’Jarius Sneed (KC) and Michael Davis (LAC)
The common theme here is each position group has an unquestioned selection and that’s Patrick Surtain II for the corners. He took more coverage snaps than any cornerback in the division and still managed to rank ninth out of 17 qualifiers with 417 receiving yards surrendered. For more context, he had 250 coverage snaps than the next closest player of the eight corners ahead of him.
Surtain also earned the highest PFF grade of the group by 10 points (86.8) and finished tied for third with seven pass breakups and two interceptions.
L’Jarius Sneed was kind of a do-it-all player for the Chiefs this year. He had nine combined interceptions and PBUs, recorded 16 defensive stops as a run defender — the most among AFC West corners by 9 — and recorded 3.5 sacks. He also had 18 pressures and was the only corner in the entire league to crack double-digits, all while taking 195 snaps in the box, 546 at nickel and 361 as a wide corner.
To round out the group and give us another outside cornerback, Michael Davis put together a career year with 12 pass breakups which not only led the division but were tied for the third-most at the position league-wide. Also, his 75.3 passer rating when targeted only trailed Ronald Darby — who only played in five games — for the top mark among AFC West CBs.
Safety: Derwin James (LAC) and Duron Harmon (LV)
Similar to Snead, Derwin James continued to be a swiss-army knife in Los Angeles. His PFF grades across the board hovered in the 72.0 to 76.0 range except for his mark as a pass rusher, which was an elite 90.9. James also led the competition with just 8.3 yards per reception allowed and ranked third with a 64.0 completion percentage allowed.
Finally, another Raider! Although, Duron Harmon is a bit of a controversial selection.
Harmon earned the fourth-highest PFF grade of the group (72.3), but what really gave him the nod was his ability to create turnovers. The old veteran had two interceptions and forced two fumbles, accounting for about 31 percent of Las Vegas’ turnovers.
Now, Denver’s Justin Simmons has a strong case with six picks, three forced fumbles and a slightly lower grade — 1.6 points — but Simmons was also responsible for four touchdowns in coverage to Harmon’s zero. Also, the latter played in five more games and gave up a little less than half as many yards.