When you read stats, the defensive line of the Oakland Raiders did not enjoy a fruitful 2018. Yet, looking on one spot on the interior will affect their fortunes this year. Boasting quicker, fluid 3-technique tackles, the focus needs to find the quieter teammates: the nose tackles. Between Johnathan Hankins and Justin Ellis, the Raiders will need a ferocious season from the nose tackle spot.
Granted, nose tackles are not the stat-filling glory type of players. What they do will not show up on the box score. Yet, their actions scream out on film. Nose tackles will fight; battling guards and centers all game. Hankins and Ellis are perfectly suited to meeting the double team with brutish power and the ability to clog the running lane. Not to mention, they can alter the pocket. While they may not get home, the center and guards taking up backfield space will affect anyone.
Johnathan Hankins is an uncommon nose tackle. Normally, nose tackles will clog up the middle and coaches oull them for passing downs. However, during his career, he tallied twelve sacks. More importantly, the twenty-seven TFL show a knack for making stops in the backfield. The Raiders see him as the starter. Within Paul Guenther’s defense, Hankins assumed the Domata Peko role, the plugger.
While Hankins provides a more dynamic skillset, Justin Ellis is a straight nose tackle. For instance, he takes up blocking, smothering the running game. Chances are the Raiders will need to choose between the two. Ellis makes 4.75 million, while Hankins nets 3 million. Ellis, at this point, could serve as the perfect backup with a pay cut
Unbelievably, the Los Angeles Chargers loom in the distance. If you look past Philip Rivers, realize the two-headed monster at running back. Melvin Gordon found his rhythm as a rusher, giving the Chargers a lead back that will gash defenses. Meanwhile, his backup Austin Ekeler profiles as more of a pass-catcher. However, his 5.3 yards per carry makes him an immediate threat. For the Raiders to beat the Chargers, they need to force their offense into being one-dimensional.
Granted, if you don’t closely watch the Raiders on defense, you may miss the nose tackles. They do the dirty work. If the defense showed marked improvement, look inside. The Raiders need to win at the point of attack.