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2023 Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

Position Breakdown_2023_DL

Entering 2023 Training Camp, will preview every position group and evaluate the players who will potentially make up the 53-man roster. Here's a look at what could potentially be a dominant defensive line.

New Players

The defensive line might've gained the most assets through the draft out of any position group on the roster.

To kick things off, the Raiders took edge rusher Tyree Wilson with their first-round pick. Even before taking a look at Wilson's stats at Texas Tech, he certainly passes the eye test as a physical specimen. The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder has a wingspan that NBA players could only dream of. After transferring from Texas A&M to Texas Tech, he racked up 15.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in Lubbock, Texas. His senior season was cut short by a foot injury that he's been rehabbing this offseason in hopes of returning to the field during Training Camp.

The Raiders also drafted two interior linemen in Byron Young from Alabama and Nesta Jade Silvera from Arizona State. Young played in a lot of meaningful college football games, winning a national championship, two SEC championships and five bowl games in total with the Crimson Tide. Silvera had four successful seasons with the Miami Hurricanes before transferring to Arizona State for a breakout graduate senior campaign. The two have a combined 11 sacks and 117 solo tackles in their collegiate careers, and both impressed defensive coordinator Patrick Graham with their showing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where Graham was the National Team head coach.

"For most of the guys that I was around, and at some point during the week I was around all the guys, they were real receptive to coaching," Graham said. "They worked hard. It was a week-long process, and you're seeing that same attitude, that same work ethic out here on the field. Smart, tough, dependable players, that's what you're trying to build a team around."

The Raiders also picked up two UDFAs in George Tarlas and Las Vegas native Adam Plant. Tarlas was a three-time All-Big Sky performer at Weber State before transferring to Boise State for his final season, while Plant starred on the UNLV Rebels defense for three seasons. The Bishop Gorman alum participated in the Raiders local Pro Day and has drawn rave reviews from several of his new coaches and teammates heading into Training Camp.

Adam Butler, John Jenkins and Jordan Willis will compete for roles on this defensive line after signing with the team earlier this offseason. Butler spent five seasons in New England, where he appeared in 80 games with 17.5 career sacks. Jenkins and Willis are both productive journeymen with a combined 11 playoff games and 13 career sacks to their names. They most recently played for the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

David Agoha joined the Silver and Black through the NFL International Player Pathway program. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound lineman from Nigeria was a basketball standout before transitioning to the gridiron. He will remain with the Raiders until the end of Training Camp, with the opportunity to either make the active roster or be added as an extra practice squad member.

Returning Players

The Raiders' returning options in the trenches give their defense a good chance to prosper in 2023.

Maxx Crosby has evolved into a premier edge rusher in the league and the motor of the Silver and Black defense. The two-time Pro Bowler is coming off his best statistical season in the NFL, leading the league in tackles for loss (22) and recording career-highs in sacks (12.5), quarterback hits (36) and solo tackles (58). He's earned the full respect of his teammates and coaches as a team captain, and doesn't see himself slowing down anytime soon.

"I've got one goal – I want to be the best at what I do," Crosby said during OTAs. "I've got many big goals I'm trying to achieve, and it takes more than being 50 percent in. It takes all my attention, all year round. ... At the end of the day, I'm on a mission until I stop playing football. All the other stuff, I'm going to do my absolute best to be the best version of myself, but it's a constant mission every single day no matter what it takes and what that sacrifice happens to be."

On the other side of Crosby is another star pass rusher in veteran Chandler Jones. Going into his 12th NFL season, he's viewed as a top dog in the locker room with four Pro Bowl selections and 112 career sacks to his name. Through offseason training and rehabbing from an elbow injury, he's shed a few pounds that may help him become faster and more fluid.

Bilal Nichols, Jerry Tillery and 2022 draft picks Neil Farrell Jr. and Matthew Butler are slated to compete within the interior defensive line rotation. Nichols signed with the Raiders in 2022 after spending four seasons with the Chicago Bears. He started all 17 games last season in the Silver and Black. Tillery developed into a key piece of the Raiders defense late in the season after being waived by the Los Angeles Chargers, who selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Draft classmates Farrell and Butler were SEC standouts at LSU and Tennessee before arriving to Las Vegas. The duo combined for 11 total tackles in the 2022 preseason before pivoting to limited defensive and special team roles during the season.

Edge rusher Malcolm Koonce rounds out the group as the second-longest tenured Raider in the defensive line room, drafted out of Buffalo in 2021. He played all 17 games last season, thriving in his role on special teams coverage.

View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders defensive linemen heading into 2023 Training Camp.

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