The Oakland Raiders need to rush the quarterback better in 2019, and luckily for them, pass rushers a plenty populate this year's draft class.
And not only is this class defined by the quantity of pass rusher, the quality is there as well.
"What I would say about the defensive line in general, is that, in the last 10 years, I'd say, it's the best defensive line group we've seen both edge rushers and inside guys," said General Manager Mike Mayock Wednesday morning in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. "I think when you start talking about the first round of the draft, I think it's going to be dominated by defensive linemen."
From Nick Bosa, to Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell and everyone in between, in many senses, the 2019 draft class is defined by the big guys – both on the inside and outside of the defensive line – who can make life difficult for the opposing quarterback.
"I think we're getting to the point in this league where we're such a pass-first league, you take those guys wherever you can get them," Mayock said when discussing pass rushers. "Over the years I've talked to almost every top quarterback in the NFL and I've asked them all the same question, 'What bothers you the most?' And almost all every top flight quarterback says, 'Immediate pressure up the middle.' If you have a couple of good edge rushers, you can step up in the pocket if it's sound up front. If you're getting push in some of those guys that don't move as well, if you're getting push up the middle that's difficult. It disturbs sight lines, forces you to readjust your feet. I think we're at the point now where people are throwing the ball so much you have to find a way to affect them regardless. I think there's more emphasis on inside guys, so it's as least as equal to the outside guys."
The Silver and Black finished 32nd in the league in 2018 with just 13 sacks, and with three first-round picks – at least for the moment – Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden certainly have the capital to address that need in a pretty substantial way.
"When you look at this draft, whether it's outside edge rushers, or inside rushers, sub-rushers, nickel rushers, they're out there, and it's not just in the first round; it's three, four, five rounds deep," Mayock explained. "We're excited because that's obviously one of our areas of need, and we think both free agency and the draft, we'll have an opportunity to address it."
The opportunities to address that need will indeed be bountiful over the coming days and weeks, and while there will certainly be some fresh faces in the defensive line room in 2019, the Raiders General Manager is also looking to see a big improvement from a trio of second-year players already on the roster.
"I'm excited to see Year 2 development in some of our rookies from last year," Mayock said. "Arden Key had to play more snaps than he probably should have had to play as a rookie last year. He hung in there, especially in the run game. We'd like to see him take a big jump, especially against the pass game. That's one guy. Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall, our two defensive tackles that we drafted last year, really excited about both those kids. P.J. is an explosive guy. He needs to take a big jump in Year 2. We're expecting a big jump in Year 2. I thought Hurst had a solid year, looking for more this year."
The defensive linemen in Indy speak to the media Saturday, and then go through their on-field drills Sunday.
Check out behind-the-scenes photos of the Raiders at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine week in Indianapolis, Ind.