HENDERSON, Nev. — When Matthew Butler’s cellphone got here to life within the fifth spherical of the NFL draft final month, the previous Tennessee defensive lineman didn’t acknowledge the quantity on the display screen.
“It just showed ‘Las Vegas, Nevada,'” Butler mentioned. “So, my heart stopped a little bit.”
Indeed, relating to the Las Vegas Raiders and defensive linemen, the 702 space code has been getting plenty of work this offseason. Because apart from drafting Butler with the No. 175 total decide, the Raiders additionally chosen LSU’s Neil Farrell Jr. one spherical earlier. Las Vegas then signed a pair of undrafted rookie defensive linemen in Notre Dame’s Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Iowa’s Zach VanValkenburg, each of whom are listed as ends.
This after signing a gaggle of veteran defensive tackles in free company — from Bilal Nichols to Kyle Peko to Vernon Butler to PJ Johnson to Tashawn Bower to Andrew Billings — while re-signing Johnathan Hankins and retaining Kendal Vickers.
Oh yeah, and the Raiders traded away defensive finish rusher Yannick Ngakoue and signed edge rusher Chandler Jones to pair with Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby.
The Raiders’ new regime re-shuffled its D-line deck … after which some.
“We didn’t have many [defensive linemen] on the roster to start with,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels mentioned. “There was a lot of opportunity at that position.”
To be honest, McDaniels was talking particularly of the 2 inside line of defense positions. To be extra normal, with the Raiders valuing versatility in all of their gamers, they may present a wide range of new fronts below new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
A 4-3 base, as has been the Raiders’ search for a decade-plus? Sure.
What a few 3-4, which extra intently resembles Graham’s sensibilities? As McDaniels has mentioned since he was employed in January, a base protection is principally a nickel now. So you want interchangeable items, and the extra positions one can play, the extra playtime mentioned participant will get.
Which is why you should not learn an excessive amount of into Jones being listed as a linebacker on the group’s transactions web page, or Farrell as a defensive lineman, or Tagovailoa, who developments as a traditional “tweener,” as an finish.
“During my career at LSU,” Farrell mentioned, “I played defensive end. I played defensive tackle. I played nose guard. So whatever the team needs, I’m willing to do.”
Keep in thoughts, Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 decide of the 2020 draft, continues to be on the roster and would possibly translate higher as an finish in a 3-4 scheme. As is Malcolm Koonce, who was drafted within the third spherical final yr, had two sacks in his first two video games as a defensive finish but in addition began seeing apply reps at outdoors linebacker late within the season.
Plus, the AFC West is loaded at quarterback, with Russell Wilson becoming a member of the Denver Broncos so as to add to Patrick Mahomes with the Kansas City Chiefs and Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Then there’s this: the Raiders have ranked within the backside half of the NFL in scoring protection in 19 straight seasons, the longest such streak by any group since 1970, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Information.
No marvel Las Vegas has gone so heavy on the D-line this offseason.
In Farrell, the Raiders received a 6-foot-4, 319-pound fifth-yr senior who had 45 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, with two sacks for LSU final fall. Pro Football Focus had the 2-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member fourth in FBS with 24 run stops, 10 of which had been both for no achieve or a loss.
Butler, at 6-4, 295 kilos, was additionally a fifth-yr senior who blossomed final season. He performed an SEC-excessive 726 snaps and led Tennessee’s defensive linemen in tackles (47) while being fourth in tackles for loss (8.5) and third in sacks (5) with seven QB hurries and a compelled fumble. PFF had him within the prime 10 of SEC D-linemen in rush protection.
The 6-2, 270-pound Tagovailoa-Amosa, who performed 5 years at Notre Dame (sensing a pattern but?) and was a group captain, had two sacks final season while the 6-4, 263-pound VanValkenburg performed three years at Iowa after transferring from Division II Hillsdale. He had 5 sacks as a senior.
As McDaniels put it, the Raiders have been taking “a few swings” on the line of defense this offseason, from free company by the draft and the UDFA signings.
“Like I said, we’re going to need some depth there in camp anyway,” McDaniels mentioned. “We are going to improve the competition at each position that we can, and I think we’ve put a group in there that’ll do that now.”