One of the more interesting phenomena for the Raiders this season is their pass rush. The way they are playing this season is completely unrecognizable from what we had seen the past three years.
You can credit that to new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley or some of the new personnel or a combination of coaching and talent. Whatever it is, it’s working.
The most incredible thing about it is it isn’t just one guy or even two guys that are stepping up. The big days have been passed around over these first six games.
You need only look at this statistic: multi-sack games.
Yannick Ngakoue put up two sacks in the team’s 33-22 win over the Eagles Sunday, and he is just the latest to do it. It was basically his turn.
Here’s how that has broken down over the first seven weeks of this season:
Week 1: Maxx Crosby 2.0
Week 2: Solomon Thomas 2.0
Week 3: Quinton Jefferson 1.0
Week 4: Darius Philon 2.0
Week 5: Yannick Ngakoue 2.0
Week 6: Maxx Crosby 3.0
Week 7: Yannick Ngakoue 2.0
Five different players have led the team in sacks over seven weeks. Six of those times, it was multiple sacks. And the Raiders defense came into the game tied for 7th in the league with 18 sacks, adding the two from Ngakoue to bring the total to 20 on the season. I asked Ngakoue after the game Sunday just how this is happening.
“It’s simple, it starts in practice with coach [Rod] Marinelli, the way he pushes us as a D-line,” Ngakoue responded. “And also coach [defensive coordinator] Gus [Bradley] as a whole unit. He demands greatness and that’s what we try to push for each and every day. When you got guys like Maxx Crosby, Solomon Thomas, Quinton Jefferson, the list goes on and on, things like that can happen.”
Even in years past when the likes of Khalil Mack patrolled the edges, the pass rush was oftentimes a one-man show. Sure, Mack had the Robin to his Batman in Bruce Irvin, but calling that a dynamic duo was a bit of a stretch, no matter how much Irvin claimed otherwise.
Ngakoue and Maxx unquestionably lead the way in the pass rush department. They have each had multiple sack games now with Crosby leading the team with five sacks and Ngakoue second with four. Both have now followed the other’s big day with a big day of their own. That’s not a coincidence.
“We push each other all the time, we’re trying to be a dynamic duo, and we want to be like the greats like the Von [Millers], the [Demarcus] Wares and guys like that, so we push each other every day and that’s what it is,” Ngakoue said of he and Crosby.
“We always compete with each other. From our get-offs to how clean we eat, all the way to how much extra work we put in after practice. If you watch the practice, we’re the last two guys to leave. Always notice him looking at me and trying to figure out how he can compete and I’m always looking at him to figure out how I can compete. That’s what I love about him. He’s a guy that busts his ass every day, I see a lot of myself in him, and that’s why he’s having tremendous success.”
Team ball is exemplified on the defensive line, where the edge rushers help the interior guys eat and vice versa. So, it’s also no coincidence that Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas each had QB hits on Jalen Hurts while Ngakoue was cleaning up around the edge.
As slippery as Hurts can be, he didn’t hurt the Raiders defense on this day. He got some good yards on the ground, but the rush made the Eagles’ offense one-dimensional. Nearly every time he dropped back he was under pressure, leading to Hurts completing just 18 of 34 passes (53%).
The result was the Eagles went scoreless for more than 44 minutes, starting in the first quarter and ending in the fourth quarter. The Raiders’ defense forced two turnovers in that time while the offense scored 30 points. Then up 33-22 in the final minutes, Ngakoue put the exclamation point on it with his second sack. Ball game.
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