OAKLAND -- The question isn’t going away. In fact, it only will grow louder and louder until someone steps up and silences the critics.
Who will pressure the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders?
That’s what happens when a franchise decides to trade an elite defensive player the week before the start of the regular season. There is a hole in the Raiders' scheme, and there isn’t one man on the roster who can fill the tremendous hole left by All-Pro Khalil Mack.
In the team’s season-opening 33-13 drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams, Jared Goff sat back and picked the Raiders' secondary apart. Without a pass rush pressuring the third-year pro out of Cal, he opened up the field with his arm. With the defense chasing, the Rams turned to star running back Todd Gurley to further complicate matters.
“When you can run the ball like they ran in the second half, it’s very hard to rush the passer,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “Obviously, we didn’t get to Goff enough, and we didn’t get to Gurley enough. We’ll take a good look at the reasons why we didn’t.”
Bruce Irvin stepped up early, sacking Goff early in the second quarter and forcing a fumble that the Rams recovered. That was the last time the Raiders got to Goff the rest of the evening.
“We knew we had to rush Goff and we couldn’t give him too much time,” Irvin said from his locker stall following the game. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of putting a lot of pressure on him.”
Irvin pointed to the Rams’ offensive line stunting and using play action to take advantage of the Raiders' speed rushers. The Raiders' defense only hit Goff twice the entire game, including Irvin's sack.
“We’ve got work to do,” Raiders rookie defensive end Arden Key said. “We’re going to see on the film. We didn’t play good as a D-line. We missed some calls. Communication was bad. It’s the first game.”
Key had the only other QB hit recorded on the evening. For the Raiders to have any chance against the Denver Broncos next week, they’ll need to figure out how to break through and at least make Case Keenum move his feet.
In case the Raiders needed any reminder of what they gave up in a trade that yielded two future first-round picks, Mack went off Sunday in his Bears debut. After signing a six-year, $141 million deal with Chicago, the 27-year-old picked up a sack and a fumble recovery, and intercepted a ball and returned it for a touchdown in the Bears' heartbreaking 24-23 loss to the Packers.