Last week the Oakland Raiders defense put on an absolute show against the Arizona Cardinals. Leading that charge was none other than the dominant force of Khalil Mack.
Heading into the offseason the Raiders added a few key players to the defensive side of the ball through free agency and the draft. So far these players look like a group capable of being outstanding in the NFL.
The defensive line was below average last year in both the pass rush and run defense. However, after this preseason it finally looks like the Raiders did what they needed in order to get that front push.
The Raiders first team defense went head up with the Cardinals first team offense in the first half and held them to only three points while gathering three sacks and two interceptions.
So what is it that is so different this year from last years defense?
Well, it appears to all start in the trenches. The Raiders defensive line was wreaking havoc on Carson Palmer all night. It was clear that the rush was getting inside his head as evident of him only going 8-for-22 with only 103 passing yards in the first half.
The second noticeable difference was that Mack wasn’t the only player generating a pass rush. Last season, it seemed that the only time the Raiders got any pass rush was when they let Mack loose, this year everyone on the line is stepping up.
If Mack got double-teamed other players were capable of stepping up and using that opportunity to get to the quarterback. Players like Justin Ellis, Dan Williams, and second round pick Mario Edwards were all constantly getting hurries on the quarterback.
This is a line that is more than capable of generating a high number of sacks this season as long as everyone can remain healthy.
The linebackers also did a great job of closing up any and all holes for the Cardinals running game also evident from them only allowing Andre Ellington to run for 19 yards on nine carries only averaging 2.1 yards a carry in the first half.
The secondary gave up a few big plays, most notably the the 39-yard reception by John Brown and the 26-yard reception of Larry Fitzgerald.
Going into the offseason the secondary was one of the biggest question marks and has been less than impressive so far. However, because of the pressure generated by the Raiders defensive line, safety Nate Allen was able to intercept two passes which is exactly what the Raiders intended when signing the young safety to a four-year deal.
There is no question that this Oakland Raiders defense has more talent and depth now than they have had in the past. If this team can perform as well as they did against the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season, the NFL may be looking at a very young and promising defense for years to come.