2022 Position Breakdown: Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones set to anchor the defensive line

Position Breakdown_Defensive Line

Entering 2022 Training Camp, Raiders.com will preview every position group and evaluate the players who will potentially make up the 53-man roster. Here's a look at the defensive linemen.

Returning Players

Within three seasons, Maxx Crosby has gone from mid-round sleeper to emerging star to now being one of the top defensive players in the NFL. With over 100 quarterback pressures, eight sacks and seven pass deflections in 2021, Crosby was named second team All-Pro and he capped off his season with Pro Bowl Defensive MVP honors in front of his home team crowd. He has not missed a game in his career and inked a contract extension this offseason.

"Maxx Crosby exemplifies the characteristics of a Raider," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said at the time. "His work ethic and leadership are unmatched and we're thrilled that he will continue to be an important part of this organization for years to come."

The Silver and Black were also able to re-sign their solid plug up the middle this offseason in Johnathan Hankins. Hankins, going into his 10th NFL season, has started 60 games for the Silver and Black and totaled 38 tackles last season. The arrival of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham should be beneficial for Hankins. The nose tackle had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016 with Graham as his defensive line coach with the New York Giants. That year, he compiled 43 total tackles, 10 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

Two players that could see more duties are Crosby's draft classmate Clelin Ferrell and 2021 third-round pick Malcolm Koonce. Ferrell has shown to be versatile across the defensive line with the ability to play at the three or five technique. Koonce, despite only in playing five games last season, had two sacks. The two players could find themselves playing defensive end with a little bit of outside linebacker in Patrick Graham's intricate defense.

Kendal Vickers has fluctuated between the practice squad and the active roster since signing with the Raiders in 2020 and has two career sacks. Gerri Green has been on the Raiders practice squad since 2020. He was briefly on the Patriots practice squad in 2019.

New Additions

When it's time to hang up his cleats, whenever that may be, people will be considering Chandler Jones as a generational pass rusher and future Hall of Famer.

The edge rusher, who has 107.5 sacks to his name, is now a Las Vegas Raider. He's already amassed an impressive resume in the desert, with three Pro Bowl selections and two first team All-Pro nods in his time with the Arizona Cardinals. Jones now comes one state over westbound to reunite with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, having previously won a Super Bowl together as Patriots.

"When you have someone with the brain of Patrick Graham – the first word that comes to mind is creativity," Jones said of Graham. "This guy is an Ivy League graduate from Yale. So when you just talk about that in itself, you talk about how creative someone can be. Then when you bring it over to the sport of football, that's easy for him. That's X's and O's for him. He's so creative and to know that and be such a proven person, the sky's the limit."

The Silver and Black also added a variety of veteran defensive linemen including Bilal Nichols, Kyle Peko, Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Tyler Lancaster and Tashawn Bower. Nichols has previously been associated with Assistant General Manager Champ Kelly with the Chicago Bears, totaling 11 career sacks in his four seasons there. Bower is connected with Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler in New England, playing two seasons for the Patriots. Tyler Lancaster had Graham and Raiders pass game specialist Jason Simmons as his coaches during his rookie season in Green Bay.

After free agency, the Raiders nabbed two interior linemen in the draft: Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler. Both made their presences felt in the SEC. Farrell won a CFB National Championship with LSU in 2020, and Butler had 9.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in his four seasons at Tennessee.

The two UDFAs added to the defensive line are Myron Tagovalioa-Amosa and Zach VanValkenburg. Tagovalioa-Amosa is cousins with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovalioa, and had experience playing defensive tackle and edge rusher in his time at Notre Dame. VanValkenburg was named second-team All-Big Ten his last two seasons at Iowa, accumulating nine sacks in that span.

View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders defensive linemen heading into 2022 Training Camp.

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