Raiders News: Malcolm Koonce, Maxx Crosby.

The Driving Force For The Raiders Success: Their Defensive Line

The Las Vegas Raiders‘ defensive line, led by Maxx Crosby and a surging Malcolm Koonce, will be the driving force behind what they hope will be a winning season in 2024.

It has become apparent that the Raiders have made it a priority to strengthen the trenches. This offseason, there were a multitude of investments made on both the offensive and defensive lines. However, the biggest investment came on defense with the signing of former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. The Clemson product signed a four-year, $110 million contract on the first day of free agency. In 2023, Wilkins recorded a career-high nine sacks.

The Raiders’ pass-rushing duo…

Maxx Crosby, a Pro Bowl defensive end, is not only the face of the defense but also of the Raiders franchise at the moment. His statistical contributions have drawn a lot of attention from opposing offensive lines. Last season, Crosby posted a career-high 14.5 sacks with little help from the interior linemen. Imagine what is possible for him with a player of the caliber of Wilkins, who demands attention as well.

Malcom Koonce, a soon-to-be fourth-year edge rusher, has become an underrated contributor entering 2024. Koonce was not expected to contribute large numbers, and when drafted, he was viewed as a depth piece. However, in the league, plans change all the time. Chandler Jones, who was brought in to fulfill the role that Koonce currently has, didn’t pan out. In fact, he flamed out. But that’s another story.

With Jones’ highly publicized release, Koonce picked up the ball, so to speak.

The defensive end out of Buffalo took full advantage of this and finished the season with eight sacks. Despite these impressive numbers, many people may not mention his name because he only made a significant impact in one season. It will be up to No. 51 to build on his development from last season. On top of that, his financial future is still in doubt—will the Raiders commit to him for the long run?

The true X-factor for the defensive line…

Looking at past seasons for some of the current defenders, it’s easy to describe what we can expect. Wilkins, Koonce, and Crosby should be the main contributors—that much is obvious.

Nevertheless, second-year lineman Tyree Wilson is the player who can solidify the Raiders as the best defensive line in the NFL. Jones’ release threw last year’s first-round pick into the fire prematurely. He was coming off a foot injury in college that would linger far too long; basically, he wasn’t 100 percent getting his career off the ground. It should shock no one that his production didn’t impress. Still, the one aspect of Wilson you can’t “coach” is his size. Being six-foot-six with an 83-inch wingspan, Wilson is not an average-sized lineman.

What can we expect from Tyree Wilson?

Despite only recording three and a half sacks last season, Wilson’s coaches consistently praised his other plays. This includes setting edges and filling his gap in the run game.

Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce, more than anyone, wants to unleash the full potential of Wilson. This offseason, he instilled one mission for Crosby: bring Wilson with him everywhere.

Wilson was drafted to be the opposing edge to Crosby, but that may not be the case this season. With the emergence of Koonce and Wilson struggling last season, he now plays the interior defensive line as well. The former Texas Tech Red Raider will likely play on the edge and interior with volume. He may have prepared himself for more interior work, as his body has definitely bulked up in training camp.

2024 could very well be the year in which Wilson’s full potential blossoms. He will start the year healthy and with plenty of talent around him. Let’s be honest, the Raiders’ defense will determine how far this squad goes. Last season, they demonstrated their full potential against the Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas.

The 2024 Raiders’ star-studded defensive line will start and end everything.

*Top Photo: Getty Images

Join The Ramble Email List

error: Nice Try!
Subscribe to RaiderRamble

Get updates from RaiderRamble via email:

Join 6,284 other subscribers