With the NFL season fast approaching, many in the AFC West are wondering (fearing?) what the Oakland Raiders defense.will look like.
Back in March, Bruce Irvin chose to depart the Seattle Seahawks to head down the coast to Oakland to join the Raiders. Little over a month later, the Oakland Raiders chose Karl Joseph with their 14th pick during the NFL Draft. With these two Mountaineers joining All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack in Oakland, the conversation surrounds the re-vamped defense and if they will rise to the top of the league.
The duo of Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack are sure to be a dynamic paring with both players giving high regards to each other. The two and their stats back up the statements made of both players being some of the fiercest players in the league.
Bruce Irvin 2015-16 regular season stats: 38 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery
Khalil Mack 2015-16 regular season stats: 77 combined tackles, and 15.0 sacks.
Last season, Mack made history by being the first player named as an All-Pro at two different positions: linebacker and defensive end.
Which positions does Bruce Irvin play? Linebacker and defensive end.
The possibilities for defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. in which to use this new dynamic duo are endless–and frightening for opponents.
Joseph has already proven to Mountaineer Nation that he can play with the best being able to go out every single down and go full force either attempting to intercept the ball or lay a fierce hit on a doomed wide receiver.
In his 4 seasons at WVU, Joseph showed what he had by having 201 solo tackles, 73 assisted tackles, 2.0 sacks, and 9 interception, even with having his senior season shortened. According to ESPN, Joseph should be ready for camp so we should be able to see what he can do with the big league players.
So what does that mean for the AFC and the AFC West in whole? It means quarterbacks are going to have a difficult time throwing on this vicious defensive team. You have two pass rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack who can force Quarterbacks to throw in a hurry. Or they can drop back in coverage.
In the secondary, Joseph is not afraid to lay down offensive players (see: Oklahoma vs. WVU 2015) and can force a receiver to drop the catches on a regular basis.
It will be interesting to see how all the players interact on the field, but from the looks of it, as long as QB Derek Carr keeps improving, Irvin, Joseph and Oakland should challenge Denver in the AFC West this season.