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NFL preview 2019: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals

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NFL preview 2019: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals

If the Raiders plan to improve on their dismal 4-12 season a year ago, the defense will have to be world's better in 2019.

Much has been made about Oakland's non-existent pass rush in 2018, when the Raiders ranked last in the NFL after managing only 13 sacks -- 17 fewer than the next closest team.

The Raiders tried to rectify some of their issues in the offseason by drafting star Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Silver and Black also drafted safety Johnathan Abram, cornerback Trayvon Mullen and edge rusher Maxx Crosby. They also signed defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' offense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Oakland's defense likely will be improved from a season ago. But by just how much remains to be seen.

The AFC West, meanwhile, has no shortage of explosive offenses, so the division very well could come down to which defenses are able to get off the field when it matters most. As such, let's take a look at home the Raiders' defense stacks up against the rest of the AFC West.

Raiders vs. Chiefs

Defensive line: The Chiefs made some changes in the offseason, bringing in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo while cutting Justin Houston and trading edge rusher Dee Ford to the 49ers. They also acquired Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks.

KC is transitioning from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 and as such could have some growing pains. Only Clark and nose tackle Chris Jones are locks to make the roster in camp.

The Raider's defensive line has issues of its own, but another year for Maurice Hurst, PJ Hall and Arden Key should buoy Oakland's unit and Ferrell hopefully will provide instant impact off the edge. Don't sleep on Eddie Vanderdoes who returns after missing the entire 2018 season while recovering from a torn ACL. Edge: Raiders

Linebackers: Kansas City got a steal when they acquired Darron Lee from the New York Jets for a sixth-round draft pick. Lee and Anthony Hitchens are two solid backers, but the drop off after those two is severe. Unless Reggie Ragland can rediscover the promise he showed in 2017, this unit could be in trouble.

As for the linebacking corps in Oakland, Paul Guenther's unit is hoping veterans Burfict and Marshall can bring some stability and leadership to a group that struggled mightily last year. If Tahir Whitehead and Marquel Lee can continue their improvement from the end of last season, Guenther might have the makings of a real defense on his hands. Edge: Raiders

Secondary: The Chiefs' secondary will need to communicate better in order to improve on what was a relatively dismal performance a season ago. Eric Berry is gone. Tyrann Mathieu is in. Kendall Fuller was solid in his first season in Kansas City but the rest of the secondary struggled, giving up explosive play after explosive play.

Mathieu is a good player, but unless Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward take a step forward, the Chiefs' secondary will struggle again.

Oakland's secondary added Joyner and Abram which should, in theory, make them better. If Gareon Conley can stay healthy and Mullen, Daryl Worley or Nevin Lawson can cement themselves as a solid corner on the other side, Oakland's secondary has the potential to be good. Edge. Raiders

Overall: Advantage Raiders

Raiders vs. Chargers

Defensive line: Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and now Jerry Tillery. The Bolts will have a fearsome frontline yet again. Edge: Chargers

Linebackers: The Chargers' linebacking corps was hit hard with injuries a season ago. The health of Denzel Perryman, Kyzir White and Jatavis Brown is paramount. If the Bolts' backers are healthy this is a no-brainer. Edge: Chargers

Secondary: I like Abram and Mullen. Conley has a ton of potential. The Chargers have Desmond King, Casey Hayward, Adrian Phillips, Derwin James and Nasir Adderley. Wow. Edge: Chargers

Overall: Advantage Chargers

[RELATED: How Raiders' offense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Raiders vs. Broncos

Defensive line: For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to include Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in this category as well even though they technically play outside linebacker in Denver's 3-4 scheme. Chubb and Miller are paid to get after the passer. So is Derek Wolfe.

Oh, and the Broncos drafted Dre'Mont Jones. Have fun, opposing offensive lines. Edge: Broncos

Linebackers: If you want to include Miller and Chubb in this group, that's fine. They'll be the starting outside linebackers. Both Miller and Chubb should feast in new head coach Vic Fangio's defense. (Remember what he did with Khalil Mack?) Todd Davis and Josey Jewell will start inside and have their warts.

Rookie Justin Hollins could slide inside to help in coverage at some point. Edge: Broncos

Secondary: Kareem Jackson is in to stabilize the safety group. Chris Harris still is the best slot cover man in the game. No need to go any further. Edge: Broncos

Overall: Advantage Broncos

NFL draft 2020: First round the best place Raiders to fill cornerback need

NFL draft 2020: First round the best place Raiders to fill cornerback need

The Raiders entered this offseason hoping to secure the services of a shutdown cornerback. They haven’t done that yet, though it wasn’t for lack of effort.

They backed up the Brinks truck for Byron Jones and offered Chris Jones Jr. a decent sum. They poked around on a Darius Slay trade. They didn’t get any of those guys.

They agreed on terms with Eli Apple as an alternate plan, but even that deal fell apart. They signed Damarious Randall, but the initial expectation is that he’ll play free safety.

So Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock enter the NFL draft looking to satisfy a pressing need that exists despite their affinity for 2019 fourth-rounder Isaiah Johnson.

They have two first-round picks to acquire a cornerback they could plug in and play outside opposite Trayvon Mullen, at Nos. 12 and 19. There’s a belief among NFL draft experts that their aren’t many instant impact cornerbacks available, so it may take a high pick to get one.

Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah falls decisively into that category, but there’s no way in holy heck he lasts until the Raiders pick. The Raiders could possibly trade up to get him – our Josh Schrock thinks the Raiders should do that – but it would take significant capital to get high enough and might not be worth the expense.

So let’s eliminate Okudah as an option and focus on players the Raiders could realistically get where they’re currently slotted:

No. 12 overall

C.J. Henderson, Florida (6 feet, 204 pounds): The former Gator is probably the only cornerback considered worthy of the 12th pick if Okudah’s gone as expected. He’s certainly a step above every other draft prospect, with the size, length and athleticism to be a respected NFL cornerback. He challenges routes and is a competitive sort, which the Raiders would like. He has experience playing both man and zone but is a top tier press-man prospect, and that fits what the Raiders are looking for. The rare knocks, per draft analysts, are that he’s not a great run defender, not a sure tackler and he doesn’t have elite ball skills, but his work ethic suggests he could develop in those areas.

[RELATED: Why Raiders trading up for Jeff Okudah is perfect move]

No. 19 overall

Trevon Diggs, Alabama (6-foot-1, 205 pounds): The former member of the Crimson Tide secondary has elite size, length and strength for the position. Stefon Diggs’ younger brother has competitive drive to spare and has experience in a press-man scheme. He got better with technique and discipline, but still has room to grow. He already has excellent ball skills, analysts say, with an ability to jump routes an defend passes.

Jaylon Johnson, Utah (6 feet, 193 pounds): The former Ute is built for press coverage, which may be enticing for the Raiders. He has the size and length to play tough at the line of scrimmage and delay timing of receiver routes. He can also play off, armed with the anticipation and ball skills to break up passes. He’s also a good communicator and has good leaping ability on deep balls. There’s development left to be made, analysts say, especially when the ball’s on its away, and that he can struggle against precise, elite route runners. He’s still projected as a quality NFL starter, which the Raiders definitely need. The Raiders might still be able to snag him a trade way down the first round, getting a good corner and an extra selection or two.

A.J. Terrell, Clemson (6-foot-1, 195 pounds): The Raiders already have one starting cornerback from Clemson. Why not two? Mullen showed proficiency running the Raiders scheme, so there’s reason to believe Terrell could do the same. He struggled mightily in the national title game versus LSU, but there’s plenty of good tape out there. He’s another press-man cornerback who can close in open space and make plays on the ball. He’s good working deep, but overall there’s improvement to be made in several areas and he might not qualify as the plug and play right away cornerback the Raiders need.

Others worth consideration: Kristian Fulton, LSU, Jeff Gladney, TCU

Second Raiders stadium site worker tests positive for coronavirus

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AP

Second Raiders stadium site worker tests positive for coronavirus

A second person working at the Allegiant Stadium construction site tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), according to stadium officials commissioned to build the Raiders a new venue just off the Las Vegas Strip.

Mortensen-McCarthy, a joint venture leading the stadium construction effort, issued a statement Wednesday announcing the finding.

The statement, sent to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and other local media, said the company was notified Tuesday of the positive test. The worker, according to Mortensen-McCarthy, was on site for one week before leaving on April 2, prior to experiencing symptoms.

The company said the infected worker wasn’t close to others due to social-distancing measures implemented on the construction site. The worker is self-isolating and won’t return to work until medically cleared to do so. The company said the area where the worker was assigned was shut down and thoroughly sanitized.

The stadium site has strict guidelines for workers on site and sanitizing protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for workers.

The first COVID-19 case from a stadium site worker was announced on March 25.

While Nevada has issued a stay-at-home directive, construction is considered an essential business and has continued despite the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELEATED: Trump reportedly says NFL season should start on time]

Allegiant Stadium is still expected to be ready for the 2020 Raiders season should it start on time. The coronavirus pandemic has put sports on hold, with no timeline for return. The NFL, however, currently is planning to start the season as scheduled.

The Raiders are set to play their first season in Las Vegas after spending previous seasons in Oakland and Los Angeles.

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