Raiders fans could not ask for better news on Super Bowl Sunday. Finally, it could be time to Free Aldon!
NFL Insider Ian Rapaport reported that the NFL will reinstate edge Aldon Smith in March, as long as he does not suffer another drug test setback.
Obviously, this is huge for a Raiders defense that ranked in the bottom half in most statistical categories.
Ironically, many Raiders writers said it was time for Oakland to move on from their troubled pass rusher.
I couldn’t disagree more. Smith’s reinstatement means he’ll have an entire offseason to integrate himself back into the team.
Smith should secure the starting edge role opposite Khalil Mack. That means young tackles Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards can concentrate on playing inside defensive tackle as three or five shades. Bruce Irvin can also concentrate on full-time linebacker duties again. Irvin can also be utilized as a situational blitzer.
This gives Oakland more flexibility in the NFL Draft and free agency. They can focus on strengthening the interior of their defense via the nose tackles and inside linebackers positions.
Besides a natural ability to rush the passer, Smith brings an intensity and versatility the Raiders lacked last season. He should be utilized as a stand up rushing linebacker like his days as a 49er. Smith can also play a more traditional end role due to his length.
Not to mention, Smith can teach young players like Ward and Shilique Calhoun how to bend and use their length to defend the run and pass.
Plus, an improved Raiders pass rush means that Oakland secondary should improve as opposing quarterbacks will have less time to pass.
In other Raiders news, Khalil Mack won DPOY from the AP. Mack stole the award from Broncos rusher Von Miller. Funny, cause Mack is often compared to him.
Mack mostly wins the award thanks to his 11 sacks and five forces fumbles. However, I wouldn’t have given him the award due to his slow start and finish to the season. Mack had zero sacks when the Raiders needed it most for the playoff stretch.
Either way, congrats to Mack. He deserves it as a hard worker and stand up guy.
Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio and Derek Carr got snubbed for awards on the same night. Del Rio finished fourth for Coach of the Year despite helping his team earn their first playoff berth in more than a decade.
As for Carr, he was a long shot for the award when he broke his leg in week 16. Still, we all saw his impact on the Raiders by his absence in the Raiders’ final two games. Nonetheless, he finished tied for third for the NFL MVP award.
All in all, it’s a great time for Raider Nation!