Raiders: Jon Gruden calls Maliek Collins the ‘key’ to the defense

Raiders, Maliek Collins (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Raiders, Maliek Collins (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders will be expecting big things from Maliek Collins in 2020.

The Las Vegas Raiders may have come away with one of the steals of the 2020 free-agency period with the signing of defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

At least that appears to be the sentiment shared by many within the organization.

Collins is expected to provide further depth to a defensive line unit that looks pretty solid on paper. And perhaps no player is more important to the unit’s success in 2020 than Collins.

Head coach Jon Gruden recently shared similar thoughts when speaking to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur this past week.

"“Collins has experience in our system. He’s been a classic three-technique. He has experience with the position coach that’s coaching him. He’s officially about to enter the prime of his career. So, he’s got a lot of playing experience. He’s got a lot of technical knowledge of what we want done.”"

He finished off the quote by claiming that Collins is “the key to [their] defense” — high praise for a player who signed just a one-year, $6 million contract in the offseason.

Maliek Collins could provide the key to the Raiders’ pass-rush in 2020.

A third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Collins started for the better part of the last four years for the Dallas Cowboys serving as the team’s top three-technique defensive tackle.

In four seasons with Dallas, Collins totaled 14.5 sacks averaging a little over 3.5 per year. But sack totals hardly tell the complete story. Collins’ sack numbers are already pretty impressive for an interior rusher, but they look even better in context.

The Nebraska product was given a fantastic 77.6 pass-rush grade by Pro Football Focus last season which ranked 11th out of all qualified interior defensive linemen in the league.

Moreover, Collins was particularly impressive when it came to beating double-teams. Collins finished the 2019 season with an NFL-best 31 pass-rush wins against double-teams, per ESPN Stats & Information.

The second-most in the NFL? None other than Aaron Donald who finished with 30.

It’s easy to see why the Raiders’ coaching staff is so high on Collins and he figures to play a key role in the defensive line rotation this season. Along with the likes of Johnathan Hankins and Maurice Hurst, Collins will see plenty of snaps at defensive tackle.

Expect the majority of those snaps to come on passing downs where he could flash his pass-rush prowess.

Next. Why a Vegas bubble could save the 2020 NFL season. dark

Amidst a ton of defensive turnover this offseason, perhaps no addition will be more important to the Raiders’ success in 2020 than Maliek Collins.