The question of how to finally figure out a way to generate a consistent pass rush has been looming over the Raiders for the last several offseasons.
They hope the signing of star defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will provide the answer, though the organization didn’t put all their eggs in that basket.
General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden also solidified the interior of the defensive line in hopes of getting enough stops to end a four-year run without a playoff appearance despite a competitive offense.
Ngakoue and the rest of the team’s newcomers begin that quest with the opening of training camp Tuesday.
He signed a two-year, $26 million contract to bring his 45.5 sacks in five NFL seasons to Las Vegas from Baltimore, where he finished last season. Ngakoue’s college teammate Quinton Jefferson, who started 28 games in the past three years with the Seahawks and Bills and recorded 9.5 sacks, followed him to the Raiders and will play inside.
Two other new veterans are also expected to compete for time on the interior of the defensive line.
Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick of the 49ers in 2017, will look to bounce back from a knee injury that kept him out of 14 games last season. Darius Philon spent three seasons as mostly a reserve for the Chargers before starting 13 games and playing in all 16 last season.
He came to the Raiders to be reunited with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who is arguably just as important to the rebuilding of the unit as any of the new players.
Veteran cornerback Casey Hayward also came with Bradley. The 31-year-old two-time Pro Bowl cornerback had spent the last five seasons with the Chargers and will serve as a tutor for a young secondary, but also is expected to play a key role.
The same can be said of Tre’Von Moehrig, a second-round pick who should slide into the starting lineup if he performs up to expectations at training camp. He was a standout at Texas Christian and among the national leaders in passes defensed each of the past two seasons.
Safeties Tyree Gillespie and Divine Deablo, pass-rusher Malcolm Koonce and cornerback Nate Hobbs were drafted to bolster the ranks on defense. Defensive tackle Darius Stills was signed after going undrafted out of West Virginia.
Cornerback Rasul Douglas, who spent four seasons with the Eagles and Panthers, was also brought in to compete for snaps.
The offense also added reinforcements in the offseason.
Perhaps most important is Alabama rookie Alex Leatherwood, who will slide into the starting right tackle spot on a revamped offensive line. He will draw a lot of eyeballs in camp, whether fair or not, as the pressure will be on him to justify the team’s perceived reach on him in the first round of the draft.
Speedy wide receiver John Brown arrives from Buffalo as seemingly a direct replacement for the departed Nelson Agholor.
Kenyan Drake was signed to add a dynamic dimension to the backfield. He will be used as a runner and receiver. Training camp will serve as a likely sneak preview at some of what Gruden has in mind for getting the most out of Drake’s skill set.
Former Saints and Ravens receiver Willie Snead gives the Raiders another reliable set of hands, and center Nick Martin is a dependable presence on the interior of the offensive line. He has a great deal of experience, a trait that might be necessary for a group that got considerably younger and cheaper in the offseason.
Jimmy Morrissey was drafted out of Pittsburgh to solidify the interior of the offensive line, and Dillon Stoner was signed out of Oklahoma State after going undrafted to provide depth at wide receiver.
E Yannick Ngakoue
T Quinton Jefferson
T Solomon Thomas
T Darius Philon
CB Casey Hayward
S Tre’Von Moehrig (R)
S Karl Joseph
S Tyree Gillespie (R)
S Divine Diablo (R)
E Malcolm Koonce (R)
CB Nate Hobbs (R)
T Darius Stills (R)
CB Rasual Douglas
T Alex Leatherwood (R)
WR John Brown
RB Kenyan Drake
WR Willie Snead
C Nick Martin
G Jimmy Morrissey (R)
WR Dillon Stoner (R)