Oakland Raiders vs. AFC West: Defensive Line

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November 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders free safety Charles Woodson (24) celebrates after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11, not pictured) during the third quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

3. Oakland Raiders

Having jettisoned Smith – and none too soon given the charges pending against him – the Raiders brought in Dan Williams from the Arizona Cardinals to take his place. Smith is younger, stronger, and has a very proven track record of being able to push the pocket and stuff the run.

Paired with star in the making Justin Ellis, the Raiders will have a very, very good interior defensive line. It will be big, fast, mobile, have the ability to push the pocket, stuff the run, make plays in the backfield, and on occasion, put some heavy pressure on the opposing quarterback.

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  • Where the questions still remain for Oakland however, are out on the edges.

    To replace the jettisoned Woodley, the Raiders brought in – well – nobody is quite sure just yet. They drafted Mario Edwards Jr., in the second round of this year’s draft – much to the chagrin of many. Edwards is big, strong, fast, and athletic, but he is not a proven pass rusher as his paltry sack totals at FSU will testify to. They also added Max Valles, who was a standout pass rusher at Virginia. At 6’5” and 240 pounds, Valles is quick enough to get around the corner but big enough that he’s not going to be eaten alive by opposing tackles.

    Along with Tuck, Edwards, and Valles, add Benson Mayowa, C.J. Wilson, Denico Autry, and Shelby Harris to the mix at defensive, and the Raiders have a lot of intriguing pieces, but ultimately, what seems like a lot of disparate parts without any real cohesion.

    To somebody on the outside looking in, it might appear that the Raiders aren’t going to be able to generate any sort of pass rush from their defensive line. If Oakland is to have any success in 2015, they are going to need those disparate parts on the defensive line to come together and form one solid, cohesive, and powerful unit.

    It will be up to defensive line coach Jethro Franklin and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., to harness the potential in this unit and mold it into something special.

    Next: 2. Denver Broncos