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Raiders begin rebuilding defense

The Oakland Raiders have no choice but to tear down their defense and build it back up. The process actually began during last season. Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was ultimately replaced by Paul Guenther.

However, the appointment of a new coaching staff led by Jon Gruden won’t be enough. After going 12-4 last year and reaching the postseason for the first time since 2002, they went 6-10. Largely because of regression from Derek Carr. As well as a horrific defense didn’t make an interception until Week 11 against Paxton Lynch and the Denver Broncos.

On Monday, the team made its first step toward rebuilding the unit with the release of corner David Amerson. Amerson, 26, came over from the Washington Redskins after three seasons to join the Raiders in 2015. The former North Carolina State standout was signed to a four-year, $35 million extension after one season with the team, but only lasted two more years before being cut.

The decision saves Oakland $6 million this year and $7.5 million in 2019 with no dead money on either year. General manager Reggie McKenzie now has $20 million to work with and should have more assuming the releases of wide receiver Michael Crabtree, running back Marshawn Lynch and offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, which would combine for an additional $15.3 million. Those moves would leave Oakland with needs at all three positions, but upgrades could be had for cheaper.

On defense, the replacement for Amerson is already in-house. Last year’s first-round pick, Gareon Conley, should step in and start alongside veteran Sean Smith. The Raiders will have to find a better player than T.J. Carrie to start in the slot, perhaps something that can be addressed in free agency. The safeties are one part of the defense that should be set, with Obi Melifonwu and Karl Joseph patrolling deep. The only point is concern there is health.




In the front seven, Oakland has to develop a better line. The Raiders have pass-rushers in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin coming off the edge, but there is little push up the middle. Oakland could do worse than aggressively pursuing Sheldon Richardson and perhaps Ezekiel Ansah, assuming Guenther is bringing his 4-3 look to the Bay Area.

Regardless of the new faces acquired, Oakland faces either a quick overhaul of the defense or another 16-game season with nothing but a view party afterwards. The Raiders must find ways to generate pressure up the middle, longer coverage in the back end and a commitment to consistent tackling, all things that have been sorely lacking in recent seasons.

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