Moving onto the defensive side of the ball, we look at the Las Vegas Raiders defensive line.
Last season, this group made significant strides with rookies Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Additionally, the Raiders signed two veterans with starting experience in Maliek Collins and Carl Nassib this past offseason. In an unexpected move, the team jettisoned defensive line coach Brentson Buckner in favor of Rod Marinelli.
Here are the previous entries to the series:
Raiders Depth Chart
Starting Left: Clelin Ferrell
Starting Right: Maxx Crosby
3. Carl Nassib
4. Arden Key
5. Ade Aruna
Starter 1. Maliek Collins
Starter 2. Johnathan Hankins
3. Maurice Hurst
4. P.J. Hall
Kendall Vickers, Defensive End
Mike Panasiuk, Defensive Tackle
Incumbent starters Crosby and Ferrell have a firm grip on their spots after solid rookie campaigns. However, we will see a lot of Nassib this year. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer has a solid track record of being a productive pass rusher. Expect him to be out there whenever Paul Guenther wants to put more speed on the field. They can play him on the edge and move Ferrell inside, much like what they did last year with Arden Key.
After two unproductive seasons, Key will likely see a reduction in his playing time. He will likely be part of the rotation in on longer drives, and possibly see time in some “Nascar” packages. I expect the Raiders to keep one more defensive end that can contribute in most special teams situations. That spot should go to Ade Aruna because of his speed. The team should be able to keep Kendall Vickers stashed on the practice squad.
After a promising rookie campaign, P.J. Hall failed to make strides in his sophomore season. For that reason, he ended losing playing time to Hankins. Also, the team brought in Collins this offseason, who will compete with Hurst for playing time. Collins has proved to be stout with the Cowboys and because of his familiarity with Rod Marinelli, he will likely be relied upon heavily. Hankins showed last season that he can be serviceable in the middle of the defensive front. I think the team hopes that Hurst or Hall can step up and beat him out during training camp, but I just don’t see it happening by Week One, if it ever happens.
Given the team’s penchant for speed, I only see them keeping four defensive tackles on the initial roster. However, undrafted free agent signing Mike Panasiuk out of Michigan State could force his way onto the team. If not, he will likely find his way onto the practice squad if he does not get scooped up by another team.
That takes us up to 35 out of 53 roster spots accounted for. Next time, we will look at the Linebackers.
Top Photo: Robert Reiners/Getty Images