The reviews for the Las Vegas Raiders‘ offseason additions are pouring in and they aren’t great. The team spent big money trying to revamp the defense but that hasn’t helped the group much. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins was supposed to be a disruptive force on the inside but has only hit the quarterback once in three games and hasn’t registered a sack.
That disappointing because the Raiders coaches hyped him up quite a bit this offseason and he was named a team captain. Though the start of his tenure in Las Vegas has been disappointing, head coach Jon Gruden still has high hopes for him.
“Maliek and I just had a meeting,” Gruden said Monday. “He’s going to play better. I think he’s trying to do too much right now. I think he’s trying his best. I really like his effort, but we expect a lot more, obviously, and I’m confident we’ll get that from him.
“Our defense played extremely well the first half. Disappointed in the outcome of the game and particularly some of the big runs that hit us in the second half. But Maliek Collins can play better and he will play better.”
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Collins had success with the Dallas Cowboys but there was hope he’d take a big leap this year. So far, he’s being outplayed by Maurice Hurst. If he can’t improve, the Raiders’ defense is in trouble.
Gruden Talks Cory Littleton
While Collins’ lack of production, it’s not nearly as concerning as linebacker Cory Littleton‘s struggles. The former Pro Bowler was the prize of free agency and was supposed to immediately upgrade the Raiders’ linebacker corps. Prior to the game against the Patriots, Littleton was the lowest graded defender on the team, according to Pro Football Focus (via Raiders Beat). Gruden also addressed Littleton’s struggles.
“I’m not going to write the summary on these players,” Gruden said. “We can all play better than we did yesterday. We had no preseason, we had very little time to organize our team on defense. We’ve got a lot of new faces.
“Littleton played very well in the first half. He can play better than he did the second half and I know he will. But we are a work in progress, and we have some corrections that need to be made across the board, offense and defense.”
Littleton was consistently strong for the Los Angeles Rams. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why he’s struggling so much. It could be because of the lack of an offseason. Though his struggles are frustrating now, he should figure things out at some point.
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Raiders Need Nick Kwiatkoski to Get Healthy
While Littleton and Collins are struggling, at least they’re on the field. Middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski has missed the last two games due to injury. He was supposed to be the leader of the defense and he did look strong before he was hurt.
His absence can’t be underestimated. They really need him to get back on the field. If he returns, that should help elevate the entire defense.