Some big names are joining the Las Vegas Raiders this season but so are many lesser-known players. It’s clear that head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler have relied on familiarity with many of their free agency moves. Several former New England Patriots players have been signed and there are more on the way.
The Raiders announced the signing of defensive end Tashawn Bower.
Bower first came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the Minnesota Vikings. He spent three seasons with the team before joining the Patriots in 2019. He was mostly on and off the team’s practice squad from 2019 to last season. He played in two games with New England and notched one sack last season before getting signed back by the Vikings. He played in four games for Minnesota.
Bower has an uphill batter to make the Raiders’ roster this season as defensive end is one of their better position groups. His familiarity with the type of system defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will be running could give him a head start over other players.
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What Raiders DL Could Look Like in 3-4 Sets
The Raiders’ defense is about to undergo a pretty serious overhaul under Graham, who is philosophically different than last year’s defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Graham has pushed back on the idea that he’ll be running a 3-4 defense but it’s pretty clear that will be the case based on the team’s offseason additions. Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby can put their hand in the dirt and rash the passer but they’ll also be taking quite a bit of snaps at outside linebacker. They’ll still be rushing the passer most often.
In 3-4 sets, Clelin Ferrell could finally get a chance to change the narrative about him. The Raiders don’t need him to be an elite pass rusher, they just need him to be a stout run defender. He’s shown that he can do that in the past and should have a bigger role on Graham’s defense in 3-4 sets. Other than Ferrell, it remains to be seen who will be the other defensive end in 3-4 sets. Kendal Vickers is an option and it’s possible they still plan to put Crosby on the line instead of at linebacker. It will be one of the most interesting storylines to watch for the Raiders this offseason.
Interior Pass Rush Is Still a Concern
Last season was the first time in a long time that the Raiders were able to generate some interior pass rush. Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson combined for 8.0 sacks last season but both have signed elsewhere this offseason. Bilal Nichols is the best pass rusher of the Raiders’ current group of defensive tackles but his career-high just 5.0 sacks in 2020.
The plan appears to have Jones and Crosby generate most of the pass rush. They are two of the best in the NFL so they should rack up some good sack numbers. However, it’s never good to be too reliant on two players. The Raiders could look to add an interior pass rusher in the draft.