Raider Nation now calls Oakland Raiders edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin the “Slash Brothers.” Mack just won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for his dominant play in 2016. And Irvin is in the midst of reclaiming his career as an edge rusher after coming down the stretch well.
But as dynamic as that duo appears to be, they are clearly not enough to form a solid pass rush. The Raiders were dead last in the NFL in sacks in 2016 with only 25 and that won’t cut the mustard. Mack faced double and triple-teams with his sheer dominance getting him to 11 sacks last year.
Irvin’s improvement down the stretch amounted to seven, giving the duo 18 of those 25 sacks. So of course, they need help from the interior in order to get consistent pressure on opposing QBs. Not only would a solid interior get sacks themselves but they would make Mack and Irvin better.
An interior rusher is closer to the QB so he is considered the most dangerous to opposing QBs. So all the double and triple teams Mack got would turn into single-blocking with occasional doubles. If you put Mack in that kind of situation, he will dominate more and his numbers will increase.
Irvin depends on his speed to go around opposing OTs and get to the QB for pressures and sacks. But this year, they simply stepped up and avoided him as they had no pressure in their faces. That will change this year as Mario Edwards is back healthy and ready to continue his rise to dominance.
But that may not be all as there’s a rookie that vows the help the Raiders bring the heat from inside. Third-round pick Eddie Vanderdoes, possibly the steal of the draft has big plans for himself. Those plans started a while back in nearby Auburn California with Vanderdoes’ father telling him he would be a Raider.
Speaking things into existence actually works sometimes as it also worked out this year in the NBA. L.A. native LaVarr Ball prophesied that his son Lonzo Ball would play for the Los Angeles Lakers. And it came true as Ball ended up getting drafted by the team with the No. 2 overall pick.
Vanderdoes told Raiders.com:
“My dad always told me, ‘you’re going to go to the Raiders one day, you’re going to go to the Raiders one day. He would always tell me that, so it’s just kind of funny that what he said came true.”
The Raiders have not been able to see him lately because UCLA is on the quarter system. Players that go to such schools cannot participate in the minicamps and OTAs but he has been training. But Vanderdoes vows that it won’t stop him from having an impact on the Raiders, telling Raiders.com:
“You’re going to get a hard nosed, tough player. “You’re going to get a guy who’s very quick, and aggressive off the ball; quick footed, heavy handed player that’s very relentless. I’m going to add to the interior rush to this team, and I’m very happy to contribute in any way possible, whatever role that may be.”