The Las Vegas Raiders continue to make major changes to the coaching staff. Recently, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli decided to retire at the age of 72. He’s long been considered one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and is a legendary defensive line coach. He did great work with the Raiders defensive line last year and helped develop Maxx Crosby into an All-Pro in 2021.
New defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has a background as a defensive line coach so he was going to ensure that he found an adequate replacement for Marinelli. Graham has decided to go young as the Raiders are hiring Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Frank Okam to serve the same position in Las Vegas.
Okam is just 36-years-old so he’ll be a big change from Marinelli. The Panthers were second in the NFL in yards allowed last season and a stout defensive line played a large role in that. Carolina had an inept offense all season last year so it’s impressive that the defense held up. The group had 39 sacks in 2021 compared to 35 by the Raiders. Okam is an emerging defensive coach in the NFL and should be a great match with the team’s young defensive line.
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Okam Is a Former Player
Similar to how the Raiders hired former Pro Bowler Antonio Pierce as linebackers coach, Okam also has a playing background. He spent five seasons in the NFL as a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans. He was mostly a rotational player and had 33 combined tackles over his career.
He decided to join the coaching ranks in 2014 as a graduate assistant for Rice University. Okam made his way back to the NFL as the assistant defensive line coach for the Panthers in 2020 before getting promoted to defensive line coach in 2021. He’s certainly an up-and-comer. Okam will bring a much different flavor to the team than Marinelli, who was old school with a military background.
Okam Has Some Great Pieces to Work With
The Raiders are a solid landing spot for Okam. The Panthers have uncertainty at head coach as Matt Rhule is on the hot seat. There’s a lot more security in Las Vegas right now as Josh McDaniels enters his first season. Plus, Okam has some really good pieces to work with.
As mentioned earlier, Crosby is coming off an All-Pro season. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the NFL with 101 quarterback pressures. He’s one of the best young defensive ends in the league. On the other side of the defensive line is Yannick Ngakoue, who also had a strong season. He led the Raiders with 10.0 sacks and has never had a season with less than eight sacks. There are some questions regarding depth and defensive tackle Ngakoue and Crosby are great pieces to start from for Okam. They are also young as Crosby is 24 and Ngakoue is 26.