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Raiders Mailbag: Blitz packages, special teams changes and more offseason questions

David Pabst from New Hampshire asks:

"Will the defense be more aggressive this year in terms of more blitz packages?"

In 2023, the Raiders defense blitzed the quarterback on 126 snaps – which was the third fewest amount of times in the league. Despite the low amount of blitzes, the Silver and Black racked up 46 sacks, 22 takeaways and ranked ninth in fewest points allowed.

Patrick Graham certainly found a rhythm with his defense toward the end of last season and things look to only get better with the development of edge rushers Malcolm Koonce and Tyree Wilson along with the addition of Christian Wilkins. As for whether more blitz packages will be added to the defense, Graham isn't ruling out anything that could raise the production of his unit.

"I enjoy being in the lab," Graham said this week. "And with the players we have who have high football IQ, that embrace those challenges of the tinkering I guess, it's definitely fun for me. Again, it goes back to each year is different, and if you try to stay the same, people will catch up and then we'll get passed by. So, there's definitely a little tinkering going on. We'll see what sticks and we'll put the best version of our defense out there at the beginning of the season, and hopefully it keeps improving."

Mike Chinchilla from Mexico City, Mexico, asks:

"Is there a special approach to the special teams practice with the rule change?"

Great question, Mike. I have noticed a few changes actually.

Yesterday at OTA practice, special teams coordinator Tom McMahon and his special teams unit were running some drills related to the new kickoff rule. Several players were fielding kickoffs, waiting for the ball to hit the ground before catching it to return. It honestly looked similar to returners doing drills for onside kicks, except from a much longer distance.

"If you think about it, last year in the Super Bowl – I'll just use that as an example – 13 touchbacks. Now, it's going to be 13 balls that are returned," McMahon said. "So, returners are excited, and their value is going to skyrocket."

"As coaches, naturally we want to play every play," he added. "So, there's going to be 10 plays a game, five kickoffs, five kickoff returns that are added into what we're grading and what we actually have to play. We can't have the out of kicking the touchback anymore, or you're going to get the ball to 30 and you're going to give up big drive starts. We love that part of because now we're going to cover every rep, we get a chance to return every rep and we got to shed, block, tackle, and teach."

Scott Boe asks:

"With June 1st rapidly approaching, what should we be looking for in potential additions?"

It's almost June 1? Man, time really flies.

Mandatory minicamp is right around the corner – and before you know it, Training Camp will be in full swing. The Raiders roster currently sits at 90 players, which the maximum amount the team can hold at this time of the offseason. But if you know anything about the National Football League, anything is subject to change.

If there were any other players the Silver and Black would be looking to add throughout the offseason, the secondary remains the most logical position group. It's a young, talented unit headlined by Jack Jones, Nate Hobbs and Tre’von Moehrig. However, there are still some veteran free agents that could be great fits in this defense. Names that come to mind include Stephon Gilmore, Justin Simmons and Xavien Howard.

Head inside Intermountain Health Performance Center to view photos from day two of OTAs.

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