Is This Finally A ‘Prove It’ Year For Raiders’ Rod Marinelli?

Given how much of the Las Vegas Raiders 2021 season is riding on the defensive line, will this be it for Rod Marinelli if they can’t produce?

Marinelli joined the Raiders following Brentson Buckner’s dismissal as defensive line coach. This was after Buckner coached up one of the team’s more promising units. Nevertheless, Marinelli’s addition was largely seen as a positive by most. This was mostly due to his track record as a positional coach and defensive coordinator. Unfortunately, he hasn’t lived up to his hiring thus far.

Given the state of the Raiders defense these past three years, Marinelli’s failures appear to be a microcosm of bigger issues. The biggest issue was finally addressed with Gus Bradley’s hiring as the new defensive coordinator. That being said, success this year will largely land on Marinelli’s unit, can it generate a consistent pass rush?

The pass rush question, or the answer to it, will define the 2021 season for the Raiders. Expectations for the offense are that it will pick up where it left off last year. The biggest change will be that the unit will have an impressive running attack thanks to its new duo. However, none of it will matter if the defense falters again. One of the biggest keys to Bradley’s defense will be the need to generate a pass rush with just the four linemen. To aid this, the Raiders invested heavily in the defensive line this offseason, Yannick Ngakoue’s addition leading the way.

Will it be enough for the Raiders and Marinelli?

With Johnathan Hankins returning and Quinton Jefferson getting signed in free agency, the front four will look very different. A likely combination that Raider Nation can expect will be Ngakoue, Jefferson, Hankins, and a rotation of Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. The latter greatly benefiting Crosby as he could make a bigger impact with a lesser workload.

They’re already in good spirits believing that even without playing a down of football, they’re one of the best pass-rushing duos. As far as Marinelli’s concerned, he’s hoping the hype is real. We all know Hankins is an elite run-stuffer but the depth is anything but sure-fire. Whether it’s Jefferson, Solomon Thomas, or Darius Philon, they likely don’t strike fear in opposing quarterbacks’ hearts.

It will be up to Crosby and Ngakoue…

The defensive coaching staff making the most out of their duo will be the key to Marinelli’s future with the team. We’ve seen Marinelli’s former players come in and fail miserably for the Raiders. So moving forward, the team will be relying on Ngakoue ascending to truly elite status as far as NFL pass rushers go. Something getting overlooked in the Crosby/Ngakoue hype train is Marinelli having to help Ferrell improve as a pass rusher. We’ve seen the pressures pile up, especially last year, but more will be needed in 2021.

All concerns aside, it’s likely that Marinelli’s unit makes a big jump this season. Crosby compiled 10 sacks as a rookie and still amassed seven last year while battling injuries. Thomas was a top-five pick who could still live up to some of his potential with the Raiders. Philon, who’s seen as simply another body, actually had much success under Bradley with the Chargers. The pressure for Marinelli to help field a competent and effective unit is certainly on. There are some intriguing pieces that could become special, for Marinelli’s sake, hopefully, that happens sooner rather than later.

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*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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