Following the viral release of a video allegedly posted by and featuring already suspended Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith, it would be quite easy for Bay Area supporters to fret about what could be a special year for their Raiders defense.
On Sunday, a video posted to Periscope entitled “Fire up session” on an account called “ravenga,” which features several other videos of Smith, showed an unidentified many holding a rolled up cigarette with an unidentified woman saying he shouldn’t even be posting a video.
To which the male replies: "You're stupid. You're tripping. (Expletive), they don't know it's me. It’s not like I put ‘Aldon Smith.’”
The video cuts off at that point, and after the video spread, Smith took to Twitter Monday to say: “Good try, not me.”
The NFL has already launched an investigation and it could jeopardize Smith’s chances of being reinstated. The 26-year-old can apply for reinstatement in September, but wouldn’t be fully eligible for reinstatement until mid-November for what should be the final seven games of the season.
When the Raiders signed the former All-Pro in September of last year, many viewed the move as Smith’s last chance in the NFL while he faced a number of legal issues away from the playing field. And Smith, after showing tremendous promise with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and 2012, looked comfortable alongside eventual first-team All-Pro linebacker and defensive end Khalil Mack, teaming up for 62 hurries, nine sacks, and eight quarterback hits.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and second-year defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. were forming a strong defense with Smith part of a defense that switches from a 4-3 or a 3-4 formation. But the potential to improve is there with or without Smith.
Under Del Rio, the Raiders defense made significant strides behind a jump from No. 30 in sacks (22) in 2014, to No. 14 (38) in 2015. Oakland also had 14 interceptions in 2015 compared to just nine in 2014. Overall, it was an impressive first season for Del Rio, who had inherited the No. 32 defense (28.3 points allowed) and made it more respectable at No. 22 (24.9 points allowed).
Mack enters the season as one of the league's most feared defensive players, but the absence of Smith may pose depth problems. Second-round draft pick Jihad Ward and 2015 second rounder Mario Edwards Jr. will be expected to pick up the slack. Stacy McGee should provide a boost after 27 tackles in 2015, while Justin Ellis and Denico Autry solidify a young and hungry defensive line.
Still, the biggest help to Oakland’s chances of snapping their long-held playoff drought and an insurance policy for Smith were already taken care of in March. The Raiders managed to steal linebacker Bruce Irvin away from the Seattle Seahawks for roughly $12.5 million in guarantees, and his leadership and 22.0 career sacks over four seasons should help immediately.