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Jon Gruden welcomes Kony Ealy and Jacquies Smith, talks Raiders pass rush

It’s almost been a month since the Oakland Raiders brought down an opposing quarterback.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The last time the Silver and Black sacked a quarterback was in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks, which came courtesy of rookie Arden Key. Creating pressure and forcing opposing signal-callers to make ill-advised throws has been difficult for the Raiders defense this season, but hopefully a couple of new additions will help turn things around.

Monday, the team signed free agent defensive ends Kony Ealy and Jacquies Smith, and both have put up impressive numbers over the course of their careers. Both are entering their fifth season in the NFL, and the two have combined for 28.5 sacks, 135 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 17 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Not only have Ealy and Smith been reliable contributors over the course of their careers, but each are in their mid-20s (Ealy is 26 years old, Smith is 28 years old). With a unique combination of youth, and years of experience on their side, Head Coach Jon Gruden expects them to make an impact.

“They’re interesting,” Gruden said Wednesday. “Jacquies Smith has played for a couple of different teams. We know Kony Ealy has had production in some big moments. They’re both young players, that are healthy, that have size. They have some position versatility. They can play on the tight end on first down or third down, and we’ll see where they are this week. We certainly can use their help.”

For those who don’t remember, just three years ago Ealy had a standout performance in Super Bowl 50, totaling four tackles, three sacks, and one pass defensed. At just 26 years of age, the 6’4”, 275-pound defensive lineman can be a terror at the line of scrimmage, and boy, do the Raiders need it. Fortunately, the team will also be getting back two of its defensive linemen who have spent the majority of 2018 injured.

“I think Eddie Vanderdoes is doing very well,” Gruden said when asked about the status of the second-year lineman. “I don’t know that he’ll be up this week, but Arizona is a legitimate target for him. I think Ellis could be back next week. I don’t think he’ll practice this week. Both of those guys are getting close.”

While Vanderdoes and Ellis aren’t expected to return to action until Week 11 at the earliest, but Vanderdoes has continued progressing during practice. I’m sure the pair of defensive tackles are frustrated they won’t take the field this Sunday against the Chargers, but their teammates will try and pick up the slack.

The pass rush has been lackluster, but on top of that the Raiders defense has given up 365 rushing yards in the last two weeks. Things won’t get any easier this weekend when the team plays host to Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon. The defensive line will certainly have its hands full, and when kickoff starts there will be no time for excuses. Against a division rival the Raiders need a win, as they try to avoid the series sweep at the hands of Philip Rivers and Co. We’ll see how Ealy and Smith fair in their first game as members of the Oakland Raiders.

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