On Wednesday, the Las Vegas Raiders placed defensive end Chandler Jones on the non-football illness list. As a result, he won’t be on the active roster and will miss at least four games.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Jones has been dealing with a personal issue, and the team will offer its support to him. In the meantime, the Las Vegas Raiders can fill Jones’ roster spot with another active body, possibly on the defensive line, which has collectively struggled to rush the passer or stop the run in the first two weeks of the season.
Going into Week 3, the Raiders have generated the lowest pocket pressure rate (10.5 percent), and they’re giving up 4.9 yards per carry, which ranks 26th leaguewide. Before their Week 3 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, they can bolster their defensive line in a number of ways, via trade, free-agent signing or a practice squad call-up.
We’ll examine five options and present a case to acquire or increase the role of each player.
Acquire Isaiah Buggs from the Detroit Lions
The Raiders may be able to trade a late-round pick to the Detroit Lions for defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs. Over the past two weeks, the Lions have listed him as a healthy inactive on game day.
Before Detroit’s season opener with the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Dan Campbell hinted that Buggs lost his starting job because of performance (or lack thereof).
“We base everything off the tape, period,” Campbell said to reporters. “I’ve spoken to Buggs, and that stays between us. But yeah, we feel like the guys (that are) the best prepared to go this week for this game, those are the guys that will be up.”
Campbell’s comments seem a bit odd when you consider that Buggs had his most productive season in 2022. Last year, he started in 13 out of 17 games, logging 46 tackles, 11 pressures, and a sack.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Buggs thinks his decision to skip offseason workouts led to his demotion.
Whatever the case, the Raiders should call Detroit with an inquiry for Buggs in an attempt to beef up their run defense. At 27 years old, he’s still in his prime years.
By the way, the Raiders’ current regime signed Buggs to the practice squad in January of last year:
Sign multi-time Pro Bowler and 2022 champ Carlos Dunlap
At 34 years old, Carlos Dunlap isn’t a full-time starter, but the Raiders don’t need him in that capacity as they develop first-rounder Tyree Wilson and Malcolm Koonce in Chandler Jones’ absence.
Vegas needs a reliable veteran who can pump some life into its pass rush, and Dunlap could still get the job done.
Opposite Maxx Crosby, the coaching staff can employ a platoon of defensive ends with Dunlap as the savvy veteran of the group. Last season, he recorded 39 tackles, six for loss, four sacks, and 20 pressures while on the field for 50 percent of the defensive snaps with the Kansas City Chiefs.
To reiterate, Dunlap isn’t the magic elixir to fix all the Raiders’ pass-rushing issues inside and out, but he can be an effective Band-Aid until Wilson or Koonce contribute on a consistent basis.
Sign defensive lineman Matthew Ioannidis
Matthew Ioannidis has inside-outside front-line versatility with starting experience through seven seasons with the Washington Commanders and Carolina Panthers.
In six seasons with the Commanders, Ioannidis registered 175 tackles, 25 for loss, and 24.5 sacks. Last year, with the Panthers, he started in 13 games, recording 37 tackles, five for loss, 10 pressures, and a sack.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Raiders have experimented with Jerry Tillery and moving him out to defensive end, but he’s never been a stout run defender.
Over the past six years, Ioannidis has averaged six tackles for loss in a season. He could be an asset in the hybrid defensive tackle-end role in Patrick Graham’s scheme.
Elevate tackle Nesta Jade Silvera to Las Vegas Raiders active roster
Nesta Jade Silvera earned his spot on the 53-man roster with a strong showing during the offseason, but he’s yet to play a snap in the regular season, and that should change in the coming weeks.
The Raiders need to shake up the defensive line rotation, particularly on the interior. As the lead defensive tackles, Bilal Nichols and John Jenkins haven’t made enough plays on run or pass downs to keep younger guys out of the rotation.
The coaching staff can blend Silvera into the rotation to bring a spark up front and specifically, strengthen the interior against the run. In three preseason games, the rookie seventh-rounder recorded seven tackles, four stops, and three pressures, per Pro Football Focus.
Sign defensive end Jordan Willis to the active roster
Despite Jordan Willis’ solid offseason, the Raiders released him as part of their final roster cuts. They signed him to the practice squad after Week 1 and let him go again a day before last Sunday’s matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Willis isn’t a high-profile name, but he played well in spot duty with the San Francisco 49ers between 2021 and 2022. In that two-year span, he recorded 27 tackles, five for loss, five sacks, and 10 pressures while on the field for just 30 percent of the defensive snaps.
The Raiders could mix him into a rotation with Koonce and Wilson with the most productive defensive end out of the trio getting the most snaps in any given week.
Maurice Moton covers the Raiders for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoeMoton.