Raiders Sign Potential Chandler Jones Replacement, Release Rookie LB

jordan willis

Getty Jordan Willis sacking Davis Mills.

The Las Vegas Raiders only had three true defensive ends on the active roster for their Week 1 matchup against the Denver Broncos after Chandler Jones was away from the team for personal reasons. Head coach Josh McDaniels was asked in his September 11 press conference if there was an update on Jones but he didn’t provide one.

It’s unclear the timeline for a potential return of the veteran defensive end. A recent roster move could indicate that Jones may be out for a little longer. The Raiders announced on September 11 that defensive end Jordan Willis has been signed to the practice squad. Rookie linebacker Isaac Darkangelo was released in a corresponding move.

Willis spent the entire offseason with the Raiders but missed the cut after training camp. The team didn’t bring him onto the practice squad at first as they were more focused on retaining young talent. Willis has played in 69 career games as a linebacker and defensive end so he’s got plenty of experience to step in and play if Jones’ absence remains prolonged. He’s played the last three years with the San Francisco 49ers, which has been one of the best defenses in the NFL. He has 10.5 career sacks so he’s not a major pass-rush threat but he should be an upgrade in the run game over the other Raiders defensive ends.

Las Vegas Raiders May Need Chandler Jones

Week 1 was illuminating for the Raiders defensive line. Maxx Crosby is still a stud and created consistent pressure while also notching a sack of Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson. However, he didn’t get much help.

According to Pro Football Focus, Crosby had six total pressures against Denver, which was a team-high. No other player had more than one. Tyree Wilson, Malcolm Koonce and Jerry Tillery all shared time at defensive end and each had just one pressure all game. Tillery did notch one sack.

While Chandler Jones is coming off a rough season with just 4.5 sacks in 15 games, he has 112.0 career sacks. The Raiders were hoping to bring the No. 7 overall pick Wilson along slowly and he clearly wasn’t ready to have a big role yet. Jones also has a huge $14.2 million cap hit this season so this situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

Josh McDaniels Impressed With the Defense

The Raiders defense couldn’t create much of a pass rush outside of Maxx Crosby but the group played well. They held the Broncos to just 16 points all game and just three points in the second half. Head coach Josh McDaniels was really impressed with what he saw from his defense in Week 1.

“I thought [defensive coordinator] Pat [Graham] and his staff did a great job at halftime,” McDaniels told reporters during his September 11 media availability. “I thought the players did a really good job of executing. They dinked and dunked us really good. Russell [Wilson] was really efficient. We let him out of the pocket too many times in the first half, but he was very efficient in the passing game.

“They kind of got a running game going there. We tightened it down a little bit and tried to get on them so there were not as many simple completions. We tried to make them work for everything that they got. We tried not to give up big plays which I do not think we did a whole lot today. We made them have to convert third downs in the scoring zone. I thought the defense played better as the day went on.”

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