Raiders Fire Former Player From Coaching Staff: Report

josh mcdaniels

Getty Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels.

Hopes were high that Patrick Graham was going to improve the Las Vegas Raiders‘ defense when he was hired as defensive coordinator. That didn’t end up being the case as the team finished 28th in yards allowed per game (365.6) and 26th in points allowed per game (24.6). The Raiders were also 26th in points allowed in 2021 under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley but were 14th in yards allowed.

The defense got worse under Graham and a big reason for that was defensive line play. Las Vegas was 20th in sacks in 2021 but fell to 30th in 2022. For that reason, defensive line coach Frank Okam has been fired from the coaching staff, per Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Graham hired Okam from the Carolina Panthers last year and the hope was that he’d have a similar amount of success in Las Vegas. Okam played in the NFL for five seasons as a defensive tackle so he understands the defensive line well. However, the Raiders had two of the most prolific pass rushers in the NFL in Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones but weren’t able to get after the quarterback. It’s unclear if Okam is getting fired directly due to the play of the defensive line. Regardless, the Raiders will need to find a top-notch replacement.

Next DL Coach Has Important Job

If the Raiders are going to turn things around on defense, it needs to start with the defensive line. The team has too much money invested in Crosby and Jones to not have a dominant pass rush. Crosby was excellent in 2022 and was named to the Pro Bowl but got almost no help. Raiders defensive linemen not named Crosby had 9.0 sacks last season.

Jones was given a $51 million contract last year but had just 4.5 sacks in 15 games. He’s one of the best pass rushers of the last decade but it looked like he didn’t have much left in the last season. Whoever the next defensive line coach is needs to focus on getting Jones right. The Raiders can’t get off of his contract until 2024 so it’s unlikely they can spend on another defensive end this offseason. Jones showed flashes that he can still be a force in the pass rush. He just needs to show that he can do it week to week to justify how much the Raiders are paying him.

Raiders Need Interior Pass Rushers

Another reason why Crosby and Jones weren’t able to put up huge sack numbers was due to the lack of an interior pass rush. Raiders defensive tackles combined for 3.0 sacks last season. It’s easiest for teams to double Crosby or Jones when there’s no threat of pressure coming up the middle. The Chiefs and Rams are the last two Super Bowl champions and both have two of the NFL’s best interior pass rushers. It’s becoming a position that is nearly as important as having an elite outside rusher.

Now, finding great interior pass rushers is rare. There might be less than five consistently great ones in the NFL right now. Despite that, the Raiders should be on the prowl for any defensive tackle who can push the pocket.

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