HENDERSON, Nev. — Johnathan Hankins and Bilal Nichols each got here off the PUP record final week, and no, that rumble you heard emanating from close to the Las Vegas Raiders’ compound was not the most recent monsoon rolling by way of Sin Metropolis.
It was a sigh of reduction.
The Raiders getting their two projected beginning defensive tackles out of the coaching room from undisclosed accidents and onto the follow discipline supplied greater than a feel-good story.
“Actually, we now have extra depth than what we have been training with, for certain,” first-year Raiders coach Josh McDaniels stated. “I believe anytime you add gamers again, on this case two defensive linemen that we’ve some hopes for, it form of reallocates the repetitions. It re-slots everybody into possibly a task that possibly matches them completely, or higher than what we have been doing earlier than. I see these guys as guys that may contribute.”
Higher late than by no means, proper?
Contemplate: the Raiders, underneath McDaniels and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, have reimagined the line of defense, particularly its inside. As a result of whereas there isn’t a doubt concerning the roles of star edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones, Hankins was the one pure inside D-lineman introduced again by the Raiders’ new regime (Kendal Vickers rotates between the inside and edge).
And, as famous above, Hankins began coaching camp on PUP.
Gone are Quinton Jefferson (4.5 sacks in 2021), Solomon Thomas (3.5), Darius Philon (2.0) and Damion Sq. (0.5), taking 10.5 of the Raiders’ 35 sacks from final season with them. Of their place are free brokers Nichols, Andrew Billings, Kyle Peko, Tyler Lancaster and Vernon Butler (who was launched Aug. 16) and draft picks Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler.
Be mindful, whereas the Raiders’ depth chart exhibits a 4-3 alignment — Hankins and Peko began at defensive sort out in Las Vegas’ exhibition on the Miami Dolphins final weekend, whereas Peko and Billings began the primary two preseason video games — Graham’s scheme has loads of 3-4 sensibilities.
“Coach Pat bought us going by way of a few totally different formations,” Peko stated with a smile. “Up entrance, the extra you are able to do, the higher. So I believe for all the inside guys, figuring out every finish is aware of the three-tech spot, it is simply useful for the entire protection in the long term.”
It is a easy philosophy, actually.
“We all know the imaginative and prescient Josh has — he desires us to win the road of scrimmage, so we have to be heavy handed,” Graham stated early in camp. “We have to come back out of our hips. We have to strike folks. Proper now, we’re not placing folks; we’re hitting sleds. However you see … enchancment, you see the pad stage.
“I at all times take into consideration younger defensive linemen — after they’re in school, they’re higher than all people. Right here, all people’s good. You higher get your pads down, or you are going to get embarrassed. In order that’s been a giant focus.”
Farrell, a fourth-round choose from LSU, and Butler, a fifth-rounder from Tennessee, performed 27 and 22 snaps, respectively, in opposition to the Dolphins, with Farrell ending with three tackles. Every week earlier, every performed 15 snaps in opposition to the Minnesota Vikings.
“We have now the identical perspective, we’re each rookies,” Butler stated of himself and Farrell. “We simply bounce issues off of one another after follow and work off with one another throughout follow.”
In addition to lean on the veterans.
“Kendal Vickers has been a good friend of mine since my freshman 12 months at Tennessee,” Butler added. “He is been nice. Additionally, Bilal Nichols. He is been on this league for 5 or 6 years now. However actually, I imply, whether or not it is Tyler, whether or not it is A.B., whether or not it is Hank, all people within the room has been pouring [information] into myself and Neil and the remainder of the workforce. And we attempt to [absorb it] by simply giving our all, daily.”
The rookies spoke to the media the identical day a mini-melee broke out between Crosby and third-round choose Dylan Parham, an inside offensive lineman.
“All people is simply on the market competing, making an attempt to make each other higher,” Farrell stated. “That is all we do every single day. Attempt to push one another, go onerous and provides it the perfect we have. Day-after-day.
“I really feel like all people gears for enchancment. I’ve bought to get higher at fundamentals and strategies. That is simply coming in, working every single day at follow and simply doing what I’ve to do to get higher.”
The return of Hankins, although, confirmed simply what an influence he can have for the D-line specifically, and your entire protection generally. Particularly since he was enjoying principally in opposition to Dolphins starters and controlling the road of scrimmage in his 13 snaps.
“A place that I might say, for probably the most half, has been just a little bit skinny in the course of the course of camp, has now form of taken a lift right here,” McDaniels stated of Hankins returning, whereas anticipating the debut of Nichols. “Now it seems like we’ve some extra depth up entrance, some extra mixtures.
“We bumped Kendal Vickers out to the top just a little bit this final week as a result of we’ve just a little bit extra depth inside. It permits us to make some strikes and a few selections that possibly we did not have the pliability to make earlier, which impacts and impacts your entire protection.”
Sure, higher late than by no means.