A lot of offseason praise went to the new linebackers that the Las Vegas Raiders acquired. Understandably so, but in the end, it might be defensive tackle Maliek Collins who ends up as the most important signing.
The Raiders needed to improve their interior pass rush ahead of the 2020 NFL season and they did that. General manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden looked to what’s been dubbed the “Cowboys” pipeline. This is akin to the team’s new defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli, and his connection to his previous players. Without a doubt, Collins was the best player to be acquired from Marinelli’s previous stop in Dallas. So much so, that Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has bestowed Collins with praise.
Recently, Guenther made the lofty comparison of Collins to All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Guenther is after all, familiar with Atkins as a player, having coached him in his stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’ve been around Geno Atkins a long time in his career. Maliek reminds me a lot of Geno Atkins. He might be our best acquisition of the offseason from what I’ve seen.” Guenther on Collins in a recent Raiders presser.
Did the Raiders land a future All-Pro DT of their own?
Whether Guenther thinks this is a legitimate comparison or he’s blowing smoke remains to be seen. So far, Raider Nation is anything but impressed with the job Guenther has done as the defensive shot-caller. The concern is whether Guenther can successfully put Collins in a position to dominate, even with Marinelli coaching the defensive line. In Guenther’s defense, he coached Atkins in the midst of the best run of his career in Cincinnati. Since 2010, Atkins has been a Pro Bowler every year except for his rookie year and 2013. Add to that resume two nods as a First-Team All-Pro as a defensive tackle, he totaled 23.5 sacks in those two years.
As a four year player in the NFL, Collins is no slouch in his own right. He has 14.5 career sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, and 40 hits.
He’s the prototypical three-technique that we’re looking for…
“Obviously, with Rod Marinelli here, he coached the defensive line in Dallas, he showed the guys what Rod is teaching them. He’s tremendous with the younger players, teaching them the techniques, he’s very fast, got his weight down, he’s in great shape. He is the prototypical three-technique that we’re looking for in this defense.”
Marinelli’s familiarity with Collins should pay dividends as he knows how to maximize his ability as a “prototypical three-technique” lineman. It’s also uncanny how similar the builds of Atkins and Collins are as well. Collins at 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds is identical to Atkins’ 6-foot-1 and 300 pounds. Heading into this season, Collins will be surrounded by young pass-rushers that will command attention. In turn, he should see one on one matchups that will allow him to dominate. These matchups, such as this one versus the Saints, are what Raider Nation’s hoping to see this season.
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*Top Photo: Roger Steinman/Associated Press