How far away is this Defense?

This offseason has been productive, especially on Offense. At this point, even the McDaniels-haters should admit McZ have assembled a potent Offense that should be top-10 and potentially even a top-5 unit.

But the bigger question marks are on Defense. Most point to last year's group finishing 28th in yards and 26th in points allowed as a roster in 'disarray' needing a total rebuild.

I don't believe it's nearly as bad as it's being advertised. On the contrary I think we're a handful of players away from being a middle of the pack or better unit in 2023.


Starters: Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones. Depth: Malcolm Koonce, Mathew Butler, Jordan Willis

Crosby is an All-Pro elite player entering his prime. Chandler Jones has been one of the top players in the NFL during his career, so much so he's likely headed to the HOF one day. He had a down year by any measure last season, sack production was down and finished the year on IR. But he's still Chandler Jones. When he's on, he's elite. He's also a very proud man that will certainly be doing *everything* he can to get back to the force that he has been for over a decade. Many 2022 preseason rankings had the Raiders having one of the elite best pass rushing duo in the NFL. They still have one of the best.

However, behind them there's uncertainty. Koonce is a promising player that flashed in 2021 but had his snaps dramatically reduced in 2022 to mostly special teams. Butler was drafted last year to be a run-stopping, edge-setting defender but it never materialized. Cle Ferrell took almost all of the rotational snaps, he's no longer on the team. Jordan Willis was brought in from the 49ers to fill Cle's role and compete.

Grade : B. This is still one of the best starting duos in the NFL. Depth is a need but having elite starters is huge.

Needs : Day 1/2/3 draft pick. I would strongly consider taking Edge at #7. But if they don't this is a *very* deep Edge class. I would draft 1 or even 2 players to reduce Jones' role to more of a pass-rushing specialist. And also reduce Crosby's snap count as well. He played way too many snaps last year.

Defensive Tackle

Starters : Bilal Nichols, Jerry Tillary. Depth : John Jenkins, Neil Farrell, Adam Butler.

Nobody in this group is elite or frankly even in the top 40. But it's not a terrible unit. Nichols was a good player in Chicago who was signed last year to be an anchor starter here. He had injury issues early and never fulfilled the expectation. Tillary is a former 1st round pick who was claimed off waivers. He made an instant impact on the pass rush even though shown to be a liability vs. the run. Only 26 years old is still an ascending player under contract for the next 2 seasons. Jenkins is a big dawg (6'3 360lbs) who has had a solid career as a run-stuffing NT but hopefully is just depth here. Farrell was drafted to be the future starting NT but clearly didn't have NFL play strength his rookie season. The hope is he's in the gym getting stronger and ready to make a big leap this year.

Grade: C. If Farrell takes a step, Tillary is more consistent and Nichols returns to form, this could be an average group. These are reasonable expectations. Adding a young playmaker could make them better than average.

Needs : Day 2/3 draft pick. DT class is not top-heavy but it's fairly deep. Add a stout NT to push Farrell for snaps. There is also room here to take a 3-tech penetrator as well.


Starters : Divine Deablo, Robert Spillane. Depth : Luke Masterson, Darien Butler, Curtis Bolton

Pro-Bowler Denzel Perryman was the leader of this group who left in FA. He was replaced by Spillane, a role player that had career bests in snaps and tackles in Pittsburgh last season. He's an ascending player who's ability to start is in question. Deablo showed big improvement in year 2 switching from Safety but only playing in 8 games and finishing on IR is a concern. Masterson played alot of snaps as a rookie, too many in fact. He showed he can be a solid run defender but a liability in coverage. Butler and Bolton are mostly ST and depth players.

Grade : D. Weakest position group IMO in need of true sideline to sideline playmaker and better depth to bring it to average or better.

Needs : Day 1/2/3 draft pick. This would be a great target for pick 38 or even trade up to the bottom of the 1st round to get one of the top prospects. Or at least get one in the top 100 players. Again, I would double up at this position.


Starters : Nate Hobbs, Duke Shelley. Depth : Tyler Hall, David Long, Brandon Facyson, Sam Webb, Amik Robertson, Isiah Brown

This is a sneaky good group that deserves more attention than it's getting. Hobbs was an All-Rookie player in 2021 who played with a broken arm most of 2022 and his play suffered for it. Shelley came from the Vikings where he had the 2nd highest PFF cover grade in the NFL in 2022. Hall also had an elite PFF grade playing from the slot. Facyson returns as a big press corner that tackles and can play in the box. Sam Webb played in all 17 games, starting 3, and showed he could be a future NFL starter. Long was brought in from the 2022 SB champs to push to make the roster. Robertson and Brown are bubble players that will find it hard to make the 53.

Grade : B This is one of the stronger position groups on the team. Adding a top flight draft pick could easily push it to an A grade.

Needs : Day 1/2/3 draft pick. There are 2 elite CB's, one or both will likely be available at pick 7. Even if McZ decides to go another route there, this is a deep CB class with talented players up and down the draft.


Starters : Trevon Moehrig, Marcus Epps. Depth : Jaquan Johnson, Roderic Teamer, Isaiah Pola-Mao, Jalen Elliot, Bryce Cosby

Moehrig was the highest rated Safety in the 2021 draft class. He has plenty of talent but an up-and-down NFL career so far. Epps was a career role player until emerging as the fulltime starter last season for one of the best Defenses in the league. Behind them is fairly solid depth, Pola-Mao showed from his rookie campaign he could actually push Moehrig to start. Teamer is back as a hard hitting enforcer who can also start if need be. Johnson will push to be that fourth Safety on the 53. CB Brandon Facyson is also a player that can play Safety in sub-packages.

Grade : B. Adding Epps improves this group from last year. Moehrig will have his best year yet benefiting from his 2nd year in the system.

Needs : Day 3 draft pick. Not a great Safety class but adding a flyer on day 3 would make sense to add competition but frankly I don't see much room on the 53.


Grade : C

This roster is not nearly as bad as many are making it out to be. They definitely underperformed last season but they also showed promise for long stretches of many games. McZ have added some nice pieces to the backend and I believe the coaching and scheme are sound.

IMO we're 2-3 impact starters away, mostly LB and DL, from being a B grade or better. That would suggest a middle of the pack or better Defense.

McZ can find these players in the draft in a deep class with a league-high 12 draft picks. With the right moves this could be the best Defense we've fielded since 2016.