ALAMEDA – The Raiders added some experience to their defensive front, hoping to spark a moribund pass rush that has generated just 59 total pressures through eight games.
The team signed defensive ends Jacquies Smith and Kony Ealy to help fortify the position group after Bruce Irvin was waived on Saturday afternoon.
Smith takes Irvin’s spot on the roster. Linebacker James Cowser has been waived to make room for Ealy, and is expected to re-join the Raiders practice squad if he clears waivers.
These two will try and bring life to an attack that has struggled mightily and is the core of this season’s defensive struggles.
Smith was signed and at practice on Monday. Ealy signed as well, and is expected to join the squad in time for Wednesday’s practice.
Smith has been on the outs since suffering a knee injury in 2016, bouncing around from Tampa Bay to the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals after that.
Smith had 13.5 sacks in 2014-15 combined with the Buccaneers, and has been frustrated by the lack of opportunities to re-establish himself as an impact player.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt in a very long time,” Smith said. “Now it’s on me to put a (quality) product out on the field. …(The wait between jobs) is very frustrating. I have a ton of confidence in myself, and I’ve made a lot of plays in this league. I’m confident in my ability and these guys see something in me to give me a shot.”
Raiders defensive lineman Clinton McDonald played with Smith in Tampa Bay, and will help ease his transition to the Silver and Black.
Smith believes the Raiders want him to step in and play right away and he’ll do so, but his goal isn’t to replace Irvin.
“I’m not going to say I’m any other guy who has left here,” Smith said. “That’s been thrown out there, but I’m just going to be the best Jacquies Smith I can be. I’m going to go out there and produce, and do it quickly and finish this back half of the season showing everyone exactly what I can do.”
Ealy worked out for the Raiders on Monday and signed with the Silver and Black the same day. He was Carolina’s second-round pick in 2014, and has 15 sacks in four seasons. He played for the New York Jets in 2017 and this year the Dallas Cowboys, who employed Smith this offseason but included him in final cuts.
Both guys could fit into the game plan for Sunday’s home game against the L.A. Chargers. Irvin wasn’t doing much the past few weeks, but the Raiders need more from their rotation of young players learning the ropes. This defense can’t function without a serviceable pass rush, and need something better than what they have.
Ealy and Smith will join an edge-rushing rotation that includes Frostee Rucker, Arden Key, Fadol Brown and Shilique Calhoun.