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Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards Jr Look To Fill Void Left By Aldon Smith

Tuesday afternoon, linebacker Aldon Smith moved through the Raiders locker room saying his farewells to teammates after learning he was suspended a calendar year for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

"It was hard because we love him," quarterback Derek Carr said Wednesday when asked about Smith's suspension. "Since he's been here, he's been a great teammate, great friend. He's family to me. He knows that I love him. But we're moving on without him – we have to. But he'll be welcomed with opened arms when he comes back."

During his nine games in Silver and Black, Smith finished with 29 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 passes defensed.

What does his suspension mean for the Raiders defense going forward the last seven games of the regular season?

First of all, Smith's talent, which was never in question, will be hard to replace – he has a First-Team All-Pro selection under his belt, and had 19.5 sacks in one season just three seasons ago.

Those types of raw numbers are hard to replace, particularly for a Raiders defense that has already been bitten by the injury bug this year.

Defensive end Justin Tuck was placed on Injured Reserve October 20, ending his 2015 season, defensive tackle Justin Ellis has appeared in just five games this year, and even Khalil Mack has missed practice trying the shake some lingering bangs and bruises.

At the time of his suspension, Smith was also second on the team in sacks, behind just Mack, so now that he's gone, the Silver and Black will have to find another way to manufacture a complementary pass rusher to alleviate some pressure from Mack.

"It's a big hit, knowing the impact that he had as a player on this defense," Mack said. "It's going to be a big hit, but we'll keep the ball rolling. You just have to have guys come in ready to play and fill that role, and fill that void."

Rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr could be the one asked up to help the fill that void – at least as far the pass rush is concerned.

"It's definitely a tough loss," Edwards said. "He was a big part of the defense, but we're going to have to move some guys around and make it happen, so we're ready and we're getting prepared to go play Detroit."

While he was suited up for the Raiders, Smith was listed as a linebacker, although he primarily rushed the quarterback off the edge.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio wouldn't reveal who's the next man up to replace Smith's snaps Tuesday, but after a breakout performance against the Vikings that saw him tally 11 tackles and his first solo sack, Edwards is a young player to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the season.

"Whatever they ask me to do, I'm pretty much up for it to do it, so if they need more from me than I'm willing to do that as well," Edwards said. "I just kind of feel like I'm going to go out there and do what I've been doing each week, just try to get better and better regardless of if Aldon is on the side of me or if someone else is on the side of me; I'm going to give it all for the Raiders and go out there and produce."

"He [Smith] knows that we have to keep the ball rolling, "added Mack. "He'd be disappointed if we stopped the grind."

As talented as Smith is, the fact remains that he won't be returning to the team facility this season, so now the Raiders must implore their next man up-philosophy and find a way to supplement his production.

"You adjust, you move on," Head Coach Del Rio said. "That's what we're going to do. It happened. We're dealing with it and at this point, we're really moving forward and getting ourselves prepared for the Lions."

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