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Film room: Reviewing Raiders’ defensive line performance outside of Maxx Crosby

Someone else needs to step up

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos
Maxx Crosby, Jerry Tillery
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

While the Las Vegas Raiders managed to walk away from Week 1 with a victory over the Denver Broncos and defensive end Maxx Crosby played well, the rest of the Raiders' defensive line was pretty quiet without starter Chandler Jones who is away from the team for a personal reasons.

Crosby accounted for six of Las Vegas’ 10 pressures and four players were responsible for the other four pressures, meaning no one else on the unit had more than one, per Pro Football Focus. Also, Crosby’s 72.1 PFF run defense grade led the position group and Adam Butler was the only other d-lineman to record an above-average mark at 60.9, which is only slightly above the baseline for PFF, and everyone else was sub-par.

To put it simply, the Raiders are going to need more from the front line of their defense moving forward, especially this week against the Buffalo Bills. So, let’s dive into the tape and pin down where they can improve.

The Broncos run outside zone and Jerry Tillery (the right defensive end) does a good job setting the edge but both defensive tackles get their butts kicked. John Jenkins gets pushed out of his gap by the combo block on the front side and Bilal Nichols gets scooped out of his gap on the back side, leaving linebacker Robert Spillane with too much ground to cover laterally and it’s an eight-yard gain on the ground.

The Raiders really can’t have that from Jenkins, who’s in the starting lineup because of his run defense. What might be even more troubling is this happened again in the second quarter with the same two guys.

This play is frustrating to me because Jenkins does a great job standing up his man against a combo block to plug up the gap Javone Williams is trying to run through, and Tillery does a decent job setting the edge. Plus, the Broncos have a miscommunication against Nichols on the right side, leaving Nichols unblocked on the backside if Williams cuts back.

However, Tillery gets greedy and tries to duck inside the block to make the play and ends up losing outside contain, allowing the back to turn what should be a one- to two-yard gain into a seven-yard run. Also, Tre’von Moehrig can be more aggressive here.

We’ll switch gears to a pass rush clip here as Las Vegas calls an E/T stunt where Crosby works inside and flushes Russell Wilson out of the pocket. However, Nichols gets caught off-guard by the chip block and compounds the issue by spinning inside, giving up contain against Wilson.

Wilson’s pass ends up being overthrown, but with a more accurate ball, this might be a first down and then some for Denver. Also, the quarterback had plenty of room to run had he taken off and that’s because no one is there to keep him in the pocket. This might have been a sack for Nichols had he stayed disciplined.

Here, it’s second and five on the goal line and there is a play-action fake in the backfield, but the offensive line goes straight into their pass sets, so the D-line should get right into their pass rush moves. However, Crosby is the only guy to really even work a move and Wilson has way too much time to scramble and hit his wide receiver in the back of the end zone.

Basically, the same thing happened on the Broncos’ second touchdown as none of the Raiders’ other pass rushers were able to win their one-on-one matchups, so Wilson was able to scramble and find someone in the back of the end zone again.

I’m not going to harp too much on Tyree Wilson as plenty of other people are doing that already, but I had to bring up at least one ugly rep and this one stood out to me.

First of all, his get-off is pretty bad as he’s late off the ball and it seems like he never really gets going. Then, Wilson tries to anticipate a chip block that doesn’t come, and the running back never really gives an indication that he’s going to chip. Combining all of that, the rookie has no momentum to win with a bull rush and makes the left tackle’s job easy.

I will say, it’s hard to expect much more from Wilson seeing as he barely practiced during training camp as the coaching staff was keeping him on a pitch count. So, reps like these and the other ones floating on social media where he looks gassed should be expected given that he’s not in playing shape and this game was in high altitude.

Here’s an example of what teams are going to start doing if no one other than Crosby can get a rush for Las Vegas.

Denver chips Crosby with the tight end and slides the protection to his side so the guard can help the tackle, essentially using three guys to keep Crosby in check. No one else wins their one-on-one matchup and Wilson has nothing but time to find Phillip Dorsett, who might have scored if he had some sideline awareness.

If you know me, you know I like to try to find the silver linings and keep things positive, and it wasn’t all bad for the Raiders defensive line. So, let’s check out a few clips where the whole unit—or the majority of it—was doing their jobs.

This is how run defense should look.

The Broncos run outside zone and Crosby beats the tight end across the tight end’s face while Jenkins wins at the point of attack against the right guard. That, plus Nichols running his feet against the reach block along with Nate Hobbs and Robert Spillane setting the edge, leads to a gang tackle in the backfield for a TFL.

Here’s another example of how run fits are supposed to look versus outside zone.

Malcolm Koonce widens his pre-snap alignment to make it easier to set the edge, Byron Young stays in his gap against the combo block and Jenkins runs his feet to hold down the backside A-gap while the linebackers fulfill their assignments. That forces the running back to cut back right into the unblocked defender, Crosby, for about one or two yards. *Chef’s kiss*.

Personnel-wise, something that I think will help out Las Vegas’ pass rush is if Koonce gets more playing time. On the rep above, he and Crosby both win by turning speed to power, collapsing the pocket on Wilson, and leaving Wilson with no room to run. Crosby finishes the play off with the sack but this is an excellent rep from Koonce for some complementary pass rushing.

Especially if no one else is going to win their one-on-one matchups, Koonce needs to play more, in my opinion.

Another example of why Koonce needs to play more...

I thought he did well turning speed to power as a pass-rusher on Sunday, and he had a nice rep against the run where he beat the tackle across the tackle’s face. Especially if Jones is going to be out for a while, it’s time to give the three-year veteran a bigger role.