After being infamous for missing out on a lot of sacks during his rookie year, Oakland Raiders defensive end Arden Key snagged his first one of the preseason against the Los Angeles Rams. He blew by left tackle Bobby Evans to get the sack on Rams backup quarterback Brandon Allen.
That’s already how many sacks he had during the entirety of the 2018 season. Key’s development into a solid pass rush threat would mean huge things for the Raiders. They used their fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to add pass rush help with Clelin Ferrell. Right now, Josh Mauro is slated as the starter at defensive end opposite Ferrell and he’s not much of a sack threat. If Key can prove to be an every-down option, the Raider pass rush could actually look pretty good in 2019.
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13 is the number of sacks the Raiders compiled in 2018. For comparison’s sake, former Raider Khalil Mack had 12.5 by himself in 2018 and he didn’t even play a full 16 games. Rookie Maurice Hurst led the team with just 4 sacks on the year. Arden Key was supposed to be the sack threat for the Raiders in 2018, but he only mustered one on the whole year. It wasn’t because he wasn’t getting to the quarterback though.
“Coach [Brenston Buckner] had a whole clip of my almost 13 sacks,” said Key earlier in the offseason. “It was very nerve-racking because I could’ve had a better first year, but we all learn from those mistakes.”
If he found a way to convert those 13 almost sacks into maybe around eight or nine, the team would be really happy about that. Key added a lot of muscle in the offseason and claims he hasn’t lost any of his quickness. Based on the sack he got on the Rams, looks like he was telling the truth. One thing that worked against Key in 2018 is that he didn’t have any help. It’s a lot easier to get to the quarterback when he doesn’t have open receivers almost immediately.
The Raider secondary wasn’t great a year ago and didn’t give the defensive line a lot of time to work. General manager Mike Mayock has made it a point to address the defensive backfield in the draft and free agency. Some of the notable additions are LaMarcus Joyner, Johnathan Abram and Trayvon Mullen. That’s not to mention that Gareon Conley should be even better in 2019. Opposing quarterbacks shouldn’t see as many openings and the defensive line should have more time to get the sack.
There also wasn’t a lot of pass rush talent on the team. With the additions of players like Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, the Raiders should have more options that can get pressure. Hurst should also be improved in his second year and bring some pressure through the middle. With more players that can get to the quarterback, that should free up Key to get more sacks.