The Las Vegas Raiders have overhauled the interior of their defensive line. Impact players from last season like Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas have signed elsewhere while the team has brought in Andrew Billings, Bilal Nichols, Kyle Peko and Vernon Butler. It looked like they weren’t going to bring back any defensive tackles from last year outside of Kendal Vickers but that’s changing.
According to Jordan Schultz, the Raiders are re-signing Johnathan Hankins to a one-year contract.
Hankins has been one of the longest-tenured Raiders as he joined the team in 2018. He’s consistently been one of the team’s best run defenders. Hankins had the upper hand over a lot of the team’s free agents due to his connection to new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Prior to joining Las Vegas, Hankins was with the New York Giants. Graham was the defensive line coach for the team back in 2016 when Hankins was still on the roster. There’s familiarity between the two, which will help Graham as he teaches everybody the defense.
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What About Darius Philon?
With the Hankins signing, the Raiders are likely mostly done making additions to the defensive line. However, there’s not a lot of pass-rushing upside to the group. None of the defensive tackles had over three sacks last season outside of Nichols. Perhaps the team is interested in adding a pass-rushing tackle in the draft but there could still be a decent option available.
Darius Philon only played in 11 games last season due to injury but did show some good pass-rushing skills. He only had 2.0 sacks but those numbers could improve if he doesn’t get hurt. Philon has been active on social media and wouldn’t mind coming to the team, but knows that it’s not up to him.
Philon has no connection to Graham so there’s a strong chance he won’t be back with the team. He also tore a patellar tendon during the last game of the season. He could have trouble getting back on the field for training camp. It might be a wiser move to rejoin former Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who is now with the Indianapolis Colts.
Raiders Banking on Outside Pass Rush
The Raiders have mostly added run stuffers on the defensive interior so it’s clear they’re going to rely on an outside pass rush. Luckily, they have some of the best EDGE rushers in the NFL. Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby form one of the best duos in the league. Malcolm Koonce and Kyler Fackrell also have pass-rushing upside.
It doesn’t necessarily matter how the Raiders get to the quarterback as long as they consistently do it. Having an interior pass rush is nice but the team should still have plenty of success. There’s still a lot of time between now and the start of the season. More roster moves can still happen but it’s looking like the Raiders are relying on Crosby and Jones to bring most of the pass rush.