Though the Raiders finished last season eighth in total yards and 10th in scoring, the club’s poor defense led the team to an 8-8 finish.
Las Vegas made some significant defensive changes over the offseason, starting with bringing in Gus Bradley as the unit’s coordinator. Then the team signed free agents like Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, and Solomon Thomas to bolster the defensive front.
The Raiders already had Maxx Crosby, a 2019 fourth-round pick who’s led the club in sacks in each of his first two seasons. In an interview with Heidi Fang of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Crosby said the Raiders D-line additions have primed the club for success in 2021.
“I think it’s just a new energy that was much needed,” Crosby said on the “Takeaways” podcast. “I feel like Quinton has a lot to prove, Solomon has a lot to prove. There’s a lot of guys that are humble but also at the same time know what they can do and really want to go out there and show people their best football.
“I know I’m one of those people. I think I haven’t even touched where I can really be in this league. And Yannick as well, he knows he can be even better. Everybody just has something to prove and I feel like that’s going to be a scary combination once we all get out there together.”
Crosby has been the Raiders’ best edge rusher for the last two years, recording a total of 17.0 sacks. Ngakoue was arguably the top edge rusher on the free-agent market after recording 45.5 sacks in his first five seasons. A former fifth-round pick, Jefferson spent last season with Buffalo and recorded 3.0 sacks, three tackles for loss, and six QB hits.
But of the players Crosby mentioned, Thomas likely has the most to prove. The 2017 No. 3 overall pick, he’s recorded just 6.0 career sacks in 48 games with 30 starts. He’s also coming off a torn ACL early last season after the 49ers declined to pick up his fifth-year option.