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If/when Khalil Mack returns to Raiders http://www.raidersauthorizedshops.com/auth....j.-hall-jersey , he will join a young and suddenly very formidable defensive line For a franchise historically famous for their terrifying pass rushers, the Oakland Raiders sure have fielded a lackluster defensive line for the better part of the past two decades. That could change under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and a draft class featuring P.J. Hall, Maurice Hurst, and Arden Key. One of the first decisions Paul Guenther made when he took the opening as Raiders defensive coordinator was to permanently move Bruce Irvin from linebacker to defense end. Irvin totaled 15.0 sacks and 10 forced fumbles outside linebacker the past two seasons in Oakland. But those numbers could have easily been improved had he been rushing the quarterback on a more consistent basis. Needless to say, Irvin was happy with the move. “That was the best news I heard in a minute,” Irvin told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I can drop in coverage. I can do it pretty good. But that’s not what I prefer to do so when I got that news that I was strictly a D-End now, that was music to my ears.”That was just the start for Guenther. As the defensive coordinator on a team with an offensive minded head coach, Guenther had a large say in selecting defensive linemen P.J. Hall, Arden Key, and Maurice Hurst in April’s draftDespite recording 37.0 sacks at Sam Houston State, the Raiders use of a second round pick on Hall was widely-viewed as a reach. Four months later, the selection looks brilliant as Hall has been a force from the nose tackle position. “Well, you know, that was the question mark coming from a small school. Can he handle this level?” Guenther said of Hall. “I studied inside pass rushers for a long time, the size, the strength, the speed, all the characteristics that you’re looking for the three-technique for us on our defense. All those things match up.”“I think the first couple days in pads where we were doing pass rush, you started to see the explosive get-off that he has and the movements that he has. And he’s strong as an ox, so I think it was really early in training camp that I realized we have a special guy here.”After recording a sack in his preseason debut, Hall followed the performance with an 86.5 grade against the Rams according to Pro Football Focus.With Hall playing at nose tackle Gareon Conley Jersey , fifth rounder Maurice Hurst has spent the majority of his time in the three-technique. The First-Team All-American from Michigan would have been a top-ten pick barring a heart defect that led his fall in the draft. So far, Hurst has stayed healthy and has played as advertised. Through three preseason games, he ranks 11th among interior defenders with a 77.7 pass rusher grade. Arguably the Raiders most impressive rookie has been defensive end Arden Key. Like Hurst, the former LSU defensive end was viewed as a top-ten talent on the field, but dropped to the third round due to character concerns. Bruce Irvin took the rookie under his wing, and Key has stayed out of trouble ever since while being nearly unblockable throughout Raiders Training Camp. His quickness and bend off the edge brings reminiscence of Von Miller. And while he has room to improve in the run game, Key should immediately step in as an effective third down pass rusher. Fadol Brown, Tank Carradine, and Shalique Calhoun have all impressed as well and should provide Guenther with valuable depth among his front-seven. After the third preseason game against the Packers, the three of them gave the Raiders a lot to think about.“[Tank] Carradine had his best game, Fadol and Calhoun can play special teams. So, there’s some really good candidates. We’re excited about it,” Gruden said Monday. He gushed about Fadol Brown in particular.“He has quietly gone about his business,” Gruden said of Brown. “His factor grade. Forget about the sack and a half he was rewarded, I thought he closed out the Detroit Lions with the strip at the end of the game. His factor grade, pressures, penetrations, pursuit plays, was very, very good for a defensive end.”Of course, the success of the defensive line hinges on whether Khalil Mack returns to the team. There is no doubt Key has impressed Youth Derek Carrier Jersey , but the idea he can replace Mack or even come close is laughable. Mack is arguably the most dominant defensive player in the NFL period, regardless of position. After becoming the first player in NFL history to be selected at two positions on the 2015 Associated Press All-Pro Team, Mack was named the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. Since 2015, he leads the entire NFL with 257 pressures. But that isn’t where his value ends as he is also one of the best run-stoppers in football. To put it simply, Mack is on track to become one of the best defensive ends in NFL history, you don’t replace a player like that. The Raiders have the coaching and players in place to field a solid defensive line without Mack, but whether or not this unit becomes truly dominant is reliant on number 52. If he re-signs with the Silver & Black, the Raiders will boast a young and talented defensive line for years to come. Follow @TylerGreenSB October 14. That’s the last time the Raiders had a sack in a game. It came in the third quarter of the team’s game in London against the Seahawks. It was the first of rookie Arden Key’s career. No one has had one since.When Key had that sack, I asked him what teammate Bruce Irvin said to him. Irvin heard the question and yelled across the locker room “Bout damn time!”Irvin still leads the Raiders team with 3.0 sacks. Last week he was waived and is now set to play for the Falcons this weekend.That’s the kind of turnaround the Raiders would like to see from the two pass rushers they signed to replace Irvin.They are Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy. Between them they have 28.5 career sacks since 2014. In case you were wondering, Irvin had 30.0 sacks over the same time period.Currently, the Raiders are easily the league’s worst pass rushing team. They have just 7.0 sacks and 22 QB hits in 8 games. Irvin may have led the team in sacks, but he hadn’t recorded one since week five, which was the last time the Raiders faced the Chargers.Philip Rivers with his quick release is hard enough to sack even with pressure. Give him none and he will pick you apart. They need the newcomers Ealy and/or Smith to be his replacement and they need it ASAP. And that depends on how quickly they can pick up their responsibilities in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense.“We’ll see how they go,” Guenther said of the progress of his new new pass rushers. “They [did] a great job yesterday in the beginning phases of practice. They really picked up the system. It’s all going to depend how much they can pick up. They’ve done a nice job with that so far so hopefully by the end of the week we’ll have them caught up.”Smith has seen the field most recently, having played three games with the Cardinals this season. Probably not coincidentally the Raiders week 11 opponent is the Cardinals. Ealy was cut by the Cowboys before the season and had yet to sign on with a team. The former Panthers second round pick had 14.0 sacks in three season with the Panthers before spending last season with the Jets, collecting just 1.0 sack in 15 appearances.That one sack is the combined total sacks for both players since 2016, so it’s best to not have high expectations from them. But at this point, anything would be better than what they’re getting now.Follow @LeviDamien
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