ALAMEDA – Benson Mayowa doesn’t play a ton, roughly 30 percent of Raiders defensive snaps. The veteran has capitalized on opportunities received as a situational pass rusher, getting after the quarterback at a cruelly efficient clip.
Mayowa’s creating pressure on whopping 11.5 percent of his pass-rush snaps, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus. That ranks third among NFL edge rushers with at least 20 percent of the highest pass-rush snap count, just behind Clay Matthews and Nick Bosa.
He has seven sacks, a quarterback hit and 13 hurries, getting home regularly when given the chance. That sack total’s already a career high, with seven games to increase that sum.
“He’s got more sacks than a lot of the great sack artists that’s out there,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I think he’s got seven sacks, if that’s what we’re measuring the great one’s by. I’m really happy to have the guy. I mean, he’s a guy that not only can rush the passer, but he’s Benny and the Jets I call him. You know, he brings the jets. He really energizes the room. He brings a certain type of energy level to our defensive line that I really enjoy being around. I’m happy for his success. Hopefully he can continue to get home.”
Mayowa paces a young crop of edge rushers coming into its own. The Raiders had but three ends last week against the L.A. Chargers, but still managed to sack Philip Rivers five times. Mayowa and rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby have chiefly in charge of creating quarterback pressure with Arden Key placed on injured reserve last week. Dion Jordan arrived Tuesday as reinforcement, but there’s no telling whether he’ll be ready Sunday against the Bengals. The pass rush still has to show up and continue a solid run that includes 10 sacks in the past three games.
They are, Mayowa beleives, commanding respect.
“They have to account for us now,” Mayowa said. “They can’t just say, ‘Oh, they don’t have a pass rush.’ We can get to the quarterback, so they have to game-plan it. That’s going to take away from other assets in their game. As long as we get to the quarterback, that’s going to help us as a whole.”
So will balanced pass-rush productivity. Mawoya’s numbers have garnered extra attention, getting him chip blocked more often than even. That means Crosby and Ferrell must re-balance offensive focus and keep getting to the quarterback.
Mayowa is responsible for helping the rookies' progression, though he’s admittedly not much of a talker or rah-rah guy. He wants to set a proper example for the young guys, who have progressed well due to a variety of factors.
“They are coming along,” Mayowa said. “Everybody wants to write guys out, but you saw the game last week. [Ferrell] did his thing. He just has to stay on the road that he’s on. He has to keep doing what he did. For Maxx, he shows up and shows out. He needs to keep doing his thing. We need them both.”
While Mayowa’s season will be judged on tape over the stat sheet, high sack totals are worth premium dollars. He signed a one-year deal here, and a double-digit sack total could certainly help his bottom line. He isn’t playing for numbers, sack totals or otherwise, but there are personal goals out there to attain. Wins, however, make everything bright.
“It’s good, but you want the Ws,” Mayowa said. "When you do that, it’s going to open up everything. If we get a lead in a game, they’ll have to pass to catch up and we can get after it. It’s a good goal, but that’s all it is.”
He’s surpassing expectations thus far this year, though Mayowa doesn’t consider 2019 a breakout season.
“I think it’s the opportunity,” Mayowa said. “I’ve been doing it, but the numbers are better. If you’ve been watching I’ve been doing it, though the numbers haven’t always been there.
“It has been a long ride in the NFL, but I have shown flashes. This has been a good year for me. I credit that to the rest of the guys.”