Oakland Raiders Depending on Youth to Keep Front 7 Formidable

The Oakland Raiders will depend on a pair of rookies to compensate for roster attrition and weaknesses within the front seven.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Raiders placed defensive end Justin Tuck on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle suffered in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos.

To put Tuck’s importance in perspective, he ranked 11th overall among 51 defensive ends in a 3-4 alignment, per Pro Football Focus. He’ll likely continue to provide vocal leadership behind the scenes and from the sidelines, but his on-field production comes to an end in 2015.


Mario Edwards Jr.

It’s the next-man-up mentality for the Raiders, and rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. must take on an expanded role from Week 7 onward. Oakland’s second-round pick brought some cheers and skepticism on draft day.

Edwards’ skill set as a gap-stuffer and run-stopper at Florida State didn’t fulfill Oakland’s need for a pass-rusher at first glance. The rookie faced scrutiny for his lack of flare and fire on the field in his college years and came into the league with something to prove, per CSNBayArea.com’s Scott Bair:

I just want to show everybody that’s pretty much the past as far as weight issues and everything that happened in college or whatever. The Raiders believed in me, and they gave me an opportunity and a chance and that’s all I needed – an opportunity to go out there and prove myself.

Typically, second-round picks come in with moderate to high expectations, but Tuck remained the unquestioned starter at defensive end throughout training camp and the preseason. Either Benson Mayowa or Denico Autry started on the opposite side of Tuck, depending on the formation, during the preseason.

Attrition struck the Raiders defense early, starting with Ma...

About the Author