Las Vegas Raiders' Maxx Crosby (98) and Marcus Epps (1)...

Las Vegas Raiders' Maxx Crosby (98) and Marcus Epps (1) tackle Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

HENDERSON, Nev. — Almost lost in the Chandler Jones situation is the effect his absence has had on the Raiders defensive line.

In trying to make up the difference at one of the defensive end positions, Las Vegas has used a tackle in Jerry Tillery, an undersized Malcolm Koonce and not-yet-ready rookie Tyree Wilson.

Opponents have been able to pay even more attention than usual to Maxx Crosby on the other end, mostly neutralizing one of the NFL's top pass rushers.

“It gives other people opportunities because if he’s got two on him, they usually have one on somebody else,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “So there are opportunities that are there that will present themselves. We just need to be able to try to take advantage of it.”

Crosby facing double teams isn't new. He often did so last season even with Jones in the lineup, but still found a way to account for nearly half of Las Vegas' 27 sacks.

He has one sack through two games this season, getting to Denver's Russell Wilson in the season opener. The Buffalo Bills devoted even more energy to defending Crosby, and though he had seven tackles, none occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

“It's been a challenge for the last couple of years,” Crosby said. “It's the ultimate respect getting chipped, getting slides (blocking), things like that. You can get frustrated by it, you can get irritated or you can find a way. For me, that's what it all comes down to. I'll find ways to affect the game no matter what. Facing two or three (blockers), it doesn't matter. I've got to find a way to be at my best, and that's what I'm seeking every single day.”

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones (55) warms up...

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones (55) warms up before an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones indicated in since-deleted social media posts on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023, that he no longer wanted to play for coach Josh McDaniels and general manager David Ziegler. Credit: AP/John Locher

Jones' long-term future in Las Vegas is murky. The club placed Jones, who had criticized Raiders management on social media, on the reserve/non-football illness list on Wednesday, meaning he will miss at least the next four games.

Regardless, not having Jones has created a big problem for the Raiders regarding how they can make up for his absence even if he didn't make the kind of impact envisioned when signing last season.

Jones had 10 1/2 sacks in his final season with the Arizona Cardinals, but had just 4 1/2 in 2022 for the Raiders.

Las Vegas, which hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, started Tillery at Denver to give the Raiders three tackles in the game at once. Tillery did get a sack, but Koonce started on the edge at Buffalo and has one tackle this season.

Wilson was drafted seventh overall this year to be the answer for the future, not necessarily now. He was hampered by a foot injury sustained last season at Texas Tech, delaying his development, so there is little surprise he's off to a slow start with three tackles.

“I always break it down into quarters in terms of the first quarter of the season is trying to get acclimated to playing football again,” Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said.

"Getting your hands right, making sure that your eyes are in the right place, getting situated like that. Tyree, along with all the other guys on the defense, they’re just getting situated and getting acclimated to playing real football again, and we’ll see how it goes this week.”

In the meantime, Crosby will keep trying to fight through whatever blocking schemes opponents throw at him while hoping for some help on the other side. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that Crosby will be a focal point of how his team attacks the Raiders.

Tomlin called Crosby one of those "guys that can change the climate in an instant.”

“We’ve faced some of these challenging guys over the course of the first two weeks and we’ve done a largely solid job of minimizing those whether it’s (Nick) Bosa or Myles (Garrett)," Tomlin said. "Maxx is just as challenging. We’ve been in the stadium with him before. I think he had four hits on the quarterback a year ago. We just can’t allow that to happen.”


Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who has been in the concussion protocol since the opener at Denver, returned to practice on Wednesday.

He's "moving through protocol the right way,” McDaniels said.

Meyers was the Raiders' leading receiver against the Broncos. He caught nine passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the 17-16 victory.

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