ALAMEDA -- The Raiders' pass rush has been lacking this season, and trading Khalil Mack for future draft compensation certainly hurt that effort. An inability to reach the quarterback has directly contributed to the team’s 0-2 start.
The Raiders have two sacks on the season and just 17 total pressures over two games. That certainly won’t cut it, which is why coach Jon Gruden keeps getting asked about it.
That happened again Wednesday, when he was asked how hard it is to find guys who can get after the quarterback.
“It’s hard to find a great one,” Gruden said. “It’s hard to find a good one. It’s hard to find one; you just said it. With college football, they aren’t dropping back to pass and throwing anymore. They’re throwing laterals and bubble screens and running read options. You have to train these guys, and it takes a little time to learn how to rush the passer. We have some guys who are in that process right now (with Arden Key, P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst).”
That certainly will raise some eyebrows, less than a month after the Mack trade. The Raiders found a great one, maybe the best in the NFL, and shipped him to the Bears because they were unwilling to pay Mack’s market value.
Gruden could’ve said it’s hard to find one and keep him and a franchise quarterback and stay in good salary cap standing. That’s dead right, and went into his thinking when executing the blockbuster trade.
Gruden said Monday that he didn’t regret trading Mack -- what else is he supposed to say? -- and that it’s now part of executing a long-term vision. It doesn’t help the 2018 Raiders a lick, though, and is hindering their ability to win games this season.
The coach has suggested the Raiders might blitz more, though they did so more Sunday against the Broncos than is customary in Paul Guenther’s defense. He brought extra rushers 13 times on just 37 drop backs, per analytics site Pro Football Focus, and generated 12 pressures.
“You do what you have to do, with the personnel you have to win the game,” Gruden said. “There were years in Cincinnati when Mike Zimmer was there where they blitzed more than they did in other seasons. ….When you have Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, you don’t have to blitz. Having the quarterback thinking you’re blitzing when you’re not can also be good. We were able to get Denver in seven-man protections and three-man routes. We just have to do a better job collectively getting off the field.”