While edge rushers get all the glory, the interior defensive linemen can often be the unsung heroes of the pass rush. It can be tough to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback from the outside if the middle is not secure.
To help with this, the Raiders brought in a new defensive line coach. He is former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. He brought Maliek Collins and Daniel Ross over with him from Dallas. They will be battling with former Raiders draft picks Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall.
Maurice Hurst vs. P.J. Hall vs. Maliek Collins vs. Daniel Ross
Position: Defensive Tackle Rotation
Others: Johnathan Hankins, Mike Panasiuk
None of the Raiders defensive tackles were offering the level of pressure up the middle the Raiders desired. Maliek Collins has plenty of that. He comes over from the Cowboys having posted an eye-popping 48 pressures from the defensive interior, making him the favorite for the 3-tech spot in Las Vegas.
Just a year ago, Maurice Hurst was seen as having that kind of potential. His four sacks as a rookie led the team and most figured he would make the second-year leap. Unfortunately he didn’t show marked improvement last season and the team often turned to P.J. Hall and/or moving edge rushers Clelin Ferrell and Dion Jordan inside in order to try and get some pressure.
To Hurst’s credit, late in the season he began showing that same potential he had shown as a rookie. But with Collins in the fold, Hurst won’t be able to rest on his laurels as the best option on this team. He is going to have to fight for a shot at starting as well as for his snaps in the rotation.
Daniel Ross and P.J. Hall are more concerned about a spot on the roster than they are about the rotation. Barring an injury to the other defensive tackles on the roster, only one of these two is going to make the team.
Hall was selected in that same 2018 draft as Hurst. But Hall was selected at 52 overall in the second round, while Hurst was taken in the 5th round.
Hall has had a lot more trouble getting his career off the ground. He had no sacks as a rookie and just 3 QB hits. He didn’t show much in the run game either. Too often it seemed like he was so focused on trying to battle the man in front of him that he missed the ball carrier.
Last season, Hall’s numbers improved some, but then again he got a lot more playing time as well. He put up 1.5 sacks and four pressures in 16 games with 12 starts. That’s not enough and this offseason Mike Mayock seemed to call him out, saying that Marinelli won’t stand for any lack of hustle from him. There were some rumors he was on the trade block during the draft, though he was not moved.
Hall, like Hurst, didn’t have much in the way of competition for his roster spot last season. Also like Hurst, he will have to fight off a hand-picked Marinelli guy if he is to make the team this year.
You may not have heard of Daniel Ross, but he is an under-the-radar up-and-coming player. The former CFLer entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017.
He spent most of his rookie season on the Chiefs’ practice squad. The Cowboys signed him away late that season and brought him back for the 2018 season and he put up seven quarterback hits in 13 games with no starts. That’s as many hits as Hall has had in his first two NFL seasons combined.
Ross wasn’t able to build upon that last season because of a shoulder injury that placed him on injured reserve.