Sans Khalil Mack, Raiders have struggled to generate a pass rush

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Those angry at the Raiders will hear the words pouring from Jon Gruden's mouth, lamenting the lack of a pass rush from his Oakland Raiders, and throw their hands up in disgust while screaming, "YOU HAD ONE OF THE BEST PASS-RUSHERS IN THE GAME AND YOU TRADED HIM AWAY!"

Those angry at Khalil Mack will say, "Yeah, well, Mack held out, violated his contract even though he was going to get paid $13.8 million, did not reach out to the new coaching staff, so he obviously did not want to be in Oakland anymore."

"We've got to do something. We've got to do something. We've got to, we've got to get there. We've got to win some one-on-ones and maybe call up some more blitzes. Um, we've got to figure something out. We will." Jon Gruden after the Raiders failed to put pressure on Broncos QB Case Keenum on Sunday

There is truth in both sentiments, though neither solves the Raiders' pass rush, or lack thereof, through an 0-2 start. Mack, the 2016 NFL defensive player of the year, is gone, and the two-time first-team All-Pro is not coming back.

In fact, Mack seems to be ascending. He has excelled in front of national prime-time audiences with his new team, the Chicago Bears, which throws salt on the Raiders' wounds.

Mack, who had 40.5 sacks in his final 55 games with Oakland, has so far outperformed the entire Raiders defense:

And therein lies the rub.

Even with Mack on the team last season, Oakland went 6-10. Maybe Mack closes out the Broncos on Sunday in the Mile High heat. Hey, he once had five sacks in Denver.

Or maybe, with a better cast and coaching around him, as he seemingly has in Chicago, Mack would be the difference-maker going forward. After all, the Raiders drafted defensive tackle P.J. Hall, defensive end Arden Key and DT Maurice Hurst, and moved Bruce Irvin to defensive end to complement Mack, not replace him.

And new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was champing at the bit to scheme a defense with Mack as the centerpiece.

Alas, without Mack, Pro Football Focus had Oakland with just five total quarterback pressures against the Rams, the lowest in the league in Week 1. And though Irvin sacked Jared Goff and Key led the Raiders with two pressures in 19 pass-rush snaps, the lack of pressure was a major factor as the Rams rallied from a 13-10 halftime deficit to win 33-13.

In Denver, the Raiders had 12 pressures, per PFF, with a sack by Hurst, five hits and six hurries. Newly signed defensive tackle Clinton McDonald -- a guy signed off the street days earlier because of injuries to Hall and Justin Ellis -- provided some push with two pressures in 32 pass-rush snaps.

No wonder Broncos sack master Von Miller, an offseason workout partner of Mack's, threw some shade Oakland's way following Denver's 20-19 victory in Week 2:

"They traded him away. Good play by the Raiders."

The Raiders did get a haul from Chicago in the deal, sending Mack, the Raiders' second-round pick in 2020 and a 2020 conditional fifth-rounder for the Bears' first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020.

But none of that will help this season, which, with the Mack trade, took on a certain rebuilding feel, rather than retooling. Even with the Raiders promoting outside linebacker/defensive end Shilique Calhoun from the practice squad Tuesday to try to help with the pass rush.

No, Gruden does not regret the trade (what would you expect him to say?) and, frankly, is tired of the discussion (again, expected).

Meanwhile, Irvin, the new face of the defense, has two quarterback pressures in two games -- the strip sack of Goff and a QB hit. He is getting roasted on social media for what looked like poor effort during the Broncos' no-huddle game-winning drive, when Irvin and the entire Raiders defense were exhausted and out of timeouts.

"Well, obviously, we need to get more out of our captain," Gruden said of Irvin. "He's put in some tough spots, certainly. He's a good player. He's had some really good snaps. We need more and more from him. I know he's giving us everything he has and it's tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him up front. We're happy he's here."

Gruden and the Raiders would be happier with more quarterback hits by Irvin & Co. going forward.