Position battles happen regularly throughout the offseason, but some can lead to acceptable rotations. The Las Vegas Raiders are poised to work through countless position battles this offseason, but an intriguing one comes from the defensive tackle position.
Year Three Jump?
Maurice Hurst and PJ Hall have now both spent two years in the Raiders’ system. Both appear to be finding their footing, with Hurst living up to expectations significantly better. Hurst has recorded 7.5 sacks in his first two seasons and has proven himself to be a dominant force. The former Michigan Wolverine has also added an interception and two fumble recoveries to help outperform Hall in most categories.
Time is Now
Hall got over the hump in 2019 and recorded the first sack of his career. While some could see this as starting slow, especially with the amount of attention the rest of the defensive line demands, but Hall has recorded a significant amount of quarterback pressures in his first two seasons.
While the starting position may be given to Hurst in this comparison, a third party has been added to the mix. Over the offseason, the Raiders added Maliek Collins to their defensive repertoire. Collins recorded four sacks for the Dallas Cowboys last season while also recovering a fumble. The 2020 season will mark Collins’ fifth season in the league, making him the veteran of his corps.
To start training camp, Hurst and Collins can be expected to face off for the starting spot at defensive tackle, with Hall receiving rotation snaps. Defensive tackles, like most linemen, do not tend to have impressively long careers but with the three all trending upwards, it would be likely to see Hurst, Collins, and Hall in some sort of rotation throughout the season.
Like most teams, the Raiders’ defensive ends are the big focus on the defensive line. Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell should attract most of the attention from the opposing team’s offensive lines. That leaves the tackles to clog up rushing holes and work for some coverage sacks.
Expect all players to receive decent snaps, with the hot hand receiving attention to start camp and the regular season. Eventually, the situation could get tenser and move into a two-man rotation, sidelining the weak link.
This should be a productive position battle, with the three boasting similar skills and stats grinding for more minutes. Should all players be able to keep their heads down and fight, they will all find themselves improving. If the defensive line can lock it in this year, the team can expect a significant increase in interceptions and sacks.