The Las Vegas Raiders made a lot of strong additions this offseason but Jon Gruden seems to be most excited about one new defender. Maliek Collins only signed a one-year deal with the team but that’s doesn’t mean they don’t have big plans for him. According to Gruden, Collins might end up being their most important player on defense.
“Well, we think Collins has experience in our system,” Gruden told the media on Thursday. “He’s been a classic 3-technique. He has experience with the position coach [defensive line coach Rod Marinelli] that’s coaching him. He’s officially about to enter the prime of his career. So, he’s got a lot of playing experience. He’s got a lot of technical knowledge of what we want done. I think I said it the last time we had a presser, he’s the key to our defense. I think he’s got a chance to be one of the better ones. We’re happy about that.”
Collins has never put up Aaron Donald or Chris Jones numbers but he can consistently bring the pressure on the inside. That’s an area the Raiders have struggled recently. Maurice Hurst is a solid pass rusher and pairing him with Collins on passing downs could generate a lot of pressure.
Gruden Praises Johnathan Hankins
Johnathan Hankins is heading into his third season with the Raiders and has been somewhat of an unsung hero for the defense. Gruden has been singing his praise for years now and thinks he’ll benefit from the hiring of Marinelli.
“Hankins is a guy nobody is talking about,” Gruden said. “Johnathan Hankins has really been a good player for us, he’s in great shape and has bought into the Marinelli factor.”
Hankins doesn’t bring the pass rush potential that Hurst or Collins does but he’s a really solid run defender. He led the Raiders’ defensive line in tackles last season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he continued that trend. He’s in a contract year so a big year for Hankins could land him a nice little extension at some point. Based on what Gruden has said about him, it doesn’t sound like they’ll want to let him walk anytime soon.
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Raiders DL Could Be Surprisingly Strong
In 2018, the Raiders defensive line was legendarily bad. They only mustered 13 sacks all season. They improved in a big way last season but were still 26th in the NFL in sacks. Benson Mayowa was one of the team’s sack leaders but he’s gone now and so is defensive line coach Brenston Buckner.
They now have Rod Marinelli coaching the defensive line and brought in Carl Nassib who should replace the void that Mayowa left. The key to the defensive line isn’t just Collins. The Raiders need Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby to take leaps in their second years. Crosby was a revelation last year while Ferrell was somewhat disappointing. If Ferrell can play up to his draft spot and Crosby can build off of last season, the Raiders have a sneaky good defensive line that could cause troubles for a lot of teams.
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