Raiders News: Jon Gruden Believes Maliek Collins Can Be ‘Key’ To Defense

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Although the Las Vegas Raiders generated some hype with their newfound firepower on offense, it is the additions on defense that have solidified their high expectations going into the 2020 NFL season.

The biggest splashes easily come at linebacker and the secondary. However, the Raiders also effectively set up a pipeline to the Dallas Cowboys this offseason by bringing in tight end Jason Witten, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in addition to safety Jeff Heath and defensive tackle Daniel Ross.

Las Vegas was able to strike gold with their talented, young tandem of pass rushers in Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are now hoping that Collins can become a stabilizing factor as the anchor of this defense.

According to Scott Bair of NBC Sports, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has high hopes for what Collins is bringing to the table:

Raiders HC Jon Gruden is clearly excited about the addition of defensive tackle Maliek Collins. “He’s officially about to enter the prime of his career. …He has a lot of playing experience and technical knowledge of what we want done. …He’s the key to our defense.”

— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) August 6, 2020

There is certainly plenty of truth to Gruden’s comments. The 25-year-old received ample experience playing under Marinelli following his arrival as a former third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by Dallas. Gruden’s comments indicate that he fully expects Collins to prove himself as a long-term option up front after coming in on a one-year deal.

Collins started 55 games during his four seasons with the Cowboys and registered 84 combined tackles, 14.5 sacks and 48 quarterback pressures during that span. His skill set as a consistent pass rusher on the interior makes him an ideal fit as part of the Raiders’ efforts to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Las Vegas took a tremendous first step in making it come to fruition with the emergence of Crosby. Though there is still hope that Ferrell can show off his first-round potential this season, the arrival of defensive lineman Carl Nassib should offer up some quality depth.

Training camp got off to a rough start for Crosby after he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list alongside running back Rod Smith. He will need to go through another screening process before being allowed to get back to work on building off a stellar rookie year that saw him register 10 sacks, 47 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and four pass deflections.

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