Raiders

Why surging Raiders pass rush believes recent success can be sustained

Why surging Raiders pass rush believes recent success can be sustained

The Raiders' pass rush is coming on strong.

Quarterbacks have felt heat in particular during the team’s perfect three-game homestand, with 12 sacks in that span and 10 in the past two contests. That has sent the Raiders soaring up the NFL sack list, now ranked 15th with 25 quarterback takedowns in 10 games.

Part of that is improved talent. Opportunities also are a crucial, oft-forgotten variable in this equation.

“[On Thursday] night against Phillip Rivers, we knew he had to throw it so you’re going to get a chance to rush," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Monday. "We knew they were going to throw it in Detroit, and we get a chance to rush. And at the end of the game yesterday we knew they had to throw it, so you get some opportunities to swing the bat. We’ve been better against the run and we’ve given ourselves more third-down opportunities than we did a year ago.

“But with that being said I think that has something to do with it. And we’re much improved. You know we’ve got better rushers and we’re getting better results.”

The 25 sacks through 10 games is nearly double last year’s total, a positive sign to be sure but no barometer of pass-rush success.

Gruden never misses a moment to say sacks aren’t the only way to measure an impactful pass rush. He prefers the factor grade, which remains internal but includes sacks, pressures, forced fumbles, run stops, edge setting and passes defensed, among other things. Here’s what we can quantify.

The Raiders are hands down better rushing the passer over last year. They have more sacks and quarterback hurries than they had all of 2018, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

Here’s what the Raiders totaled rushing the passer in 2018: 13 sacks, 36 quarterback hits, 97 individual hurries -- 146 total individual pressures.

The Raiders are going to generate much more pressure this time around if the season continues this way.

2019 project pass-rush stats: 40 sacks, 35 quarterback hits, 190 individual hurries -- 265 total individual pressures

As we’ve already said, 2018’s a bad gauge of competence in this effort. This year’s numbers project to be better than 2017, when the Raiders had Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin leading the charge. They would come in just under 2016, the team’s last playoff season, except in sacks.

2017 stats: 36 sacks, 49 hits, 164 individual hurries -- 249 total individual pressures
2016 stats: 27 sacks, 50 hits, 202 individual hurries -- 279 total individual pressures

The Raiders have surged into the backfield behind Clelin Ferrell’s improvement off the edge, Maxx Crosby’s tenacious energy and Benson Mayowa’s efficient efforts. Ferrell and Crosby are rookies and have made great strides in recent weeks. Maurice Hurst has been solid on the interior, and newcomer Dion Jordan brings athleticism and agility to the interior rush.

“We’re finally finding our groove and starting to rush well as a group,” Hurst said. “That’s more important that you think. We’ve had to switch spots and rotate guys around the line. We’ve lost some guys along the way, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’re comfortable with what we’re doing even with new guys coming in. That speaks volumes to how we have been prepared.

"It’s something we have to keep going if we want to keep winning.”

[RELATED: Raiders DE Crosby named AFC Defensive Player of the Week]

Hurst says part of that is individual improvement, but an underrated portion is the line working well together.

“It’s a timing thing and a communication thing, and that’s something we have really picked up over these past few games,” Hurst said. 

Watch Raiders' Maurice Hurst intercept Ryan Tannehill pass, rumble 55 yards

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AP

Watch Raiders' Maurice Hurst intercept Ryan Tannehill pass, rumble 55 yards

OAKLAND -- With Josh Jacobs missing Sunday's Week 14 game against the Titans with a shoulder injury, the Raiders are going to need contributions from everyone.

Maurice Hurst did his part early in the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum.

With the Titans driving, quarterback Ryan Tannehill dropped back to pass and attempted to sling the ball to his left. The pass was deflected by Dion Jordan, and then fluttered into the arms of Hurst, who rumbled 55 yards the other way before Tannehill chased him down with a big hit.

Get the O2 tank to Hurst, stat. 

[RELATED: Raiders almost got weird break with Chiefs' equipment gaffe]

The Raiders capitalized on the turnover a few plays later when DeAndre Washington plunged in from 14 yards out to make it 7-0. 

A win Sunday by the Raiders would have them leapfrog Tennesee in the AFC standings and put them back on the playoff doorstep. 

NFL rumors: Chiefs could have forfeited vs. Patriots due to equipment mistake

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AP

NFL rumors: Chiefs could have forfeited vs. Patriots due to equipment mistake

After getting blown out by the Jets and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, the Raiders need all the help they can get to make the playoffs. 

They almost got what would have been one of the weirdest breaks in NFL history Sunday. 

The 8-4 Chiefs are in Foxboro, Mass., to face the 10-2 Patriots in a key AFC clash. Kansas City can clinch the AFC West with a win, but some of the team's equipment was accidentally sent to New Jersey instead of to Foxboro, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday. 

As the Chiefs were unloading their gear Saturday, one container wasn't unloaded and instead made its way to New Jersey. That container had the equipment for 35 players. The Chiefs had to rush the equipment to Boston.

If had not made it to Gillette Stadium by kickoff, then the Chiefs would have had to forfeit the game.

But the equipment arrived in Foxboro about 90 minutes before kickoff, setting up a massive AFC battle between star QBS Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. 

[RELATED: Why Waller is key for Raiders vs. Titans]

The Raiders, meanwhile, will face the 7-5 Titans in a must-win AFC battle at the Coliseum. A win would vault the Raiders back into the playoff periphery, while a loss would all but end their playoff hopes. The AFC West is in the hands of the Chiefs, but the Raiders almost caught a massive break. 

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