TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS
Silver & Black Illustrated|August 2020
Late last year while the Raiders were trying to salvage what they could from the season, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther admitted he hadn’t been able to coach like he had been accustomed to. The defense was in full flex, with new rookies and veterans trying find their way around in the schemes being used, that Guenther really had no other choice.
Michael Wagaman

“I’m trying to think like the players would think,” he said. “‘Hey, can they handle this? Hey, if this happens, do they know the adjustment for that or the adjustment for this?’ A lot of times you want to let these guys … just tie them up, play sound, stay on top in the coverage, play good in the run fits and let them go.”

Fast forward seven months and much has changed, and not just the team’s home.

There are a few more new faces (Cory Littleton, Maliek Collins, Prince Amukamara to name a few) and handful of fresh-faced rookies (Damon Arnette, Amik Robertson, Tanner Muse) but the vibe heading into 2020 is definitively different than it was a year ago.

No further proof of that is needed than by hearing what second-year defensive end Maxx Crosby had to say about taking on a leadership role on the defense after his standout rookie year.

“I want to show all the guys that we can beat anyone,” Crosby told the Las Vegas Review-Journal during the offseason. “I have no problem being that guy and taking any heat for it. I want to be a leader. I want to set the example.”

Here’s what the Raiders have defensively heading into training camp:

DEFENSIVE LINE

Starters: Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Hankins, Maliek Collins Key backups: Carl Nassib, Maurice Hurst,

Arden Key The breakdown: After a terrible 2018 season when they managed a meager 13 sacks in 16 games, the Raiders made big strides in that department last year. Much of that came from rookie Maxx Crosby, the fourth-round draft pick who dominated from day one and broke numerous franchise rookie records while establishing himself as a force up front. Clelin Ferrell, the team’s first-round pick, didn’t have as big of an impact but several factors combined for that. Ferrell played out of position for a large chunk of the season, then wore down after getting sick and losing 15 pounds. With Collins, the former Dallas Cowboy, on board Ferrell — who has beefed up in the offseason — will likely be able to play more consistently at his natural end position. Collins could be the wild card of the bunch. He signed a one-year bargain deal and should be motivated to get a bigger payday. Nassib’s experience will help the line overall, but Hurst, Key and PJ Hall are all likely on the bubble heading into training camp.

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