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Malcolm Koonce identified as an 'unsung hero' for the Raiders in 2023

Malcolm Koonce began to shine his lightly brightly last season, becoming a key contributor for the Raiders defense.

After spending his first two seasons as a rotational edge rusher, he broke out in 2023 as a starter opposite of Defensive Player of the Year finalist Maxx Crosby. Koonce set career-highs in nearly every defensive category, including sacks (eight), tackles for loss (nine) and forced fumbles (three).

"It's him making the decision to practice the right way, get better, to improve, put in the necessary work, that's just what it comes down to in professional football," defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said about Koonce. "Guys making the decision to improve and then me trying to stay out of the way and not mess them up. I couldn't be more proud of that guy."

Koonce's breakout season didn't go entirely under the radar, as Around the NFL writer Kevin Patra named the third-year player as an "unsung hero" of the 2023 season.

"Used sparingly in his first two years, Koonce was stuck in a rotation early in the season, but the Raiders finally gave him more snaps down the stretch, and Koonce blasted off," wrote Patra. "He racked up 8.0 sacks, all coming after Antonio Pierce took over as interim head coach in Week 9. He also added 36 pressures in that span, giving him 51 on the season, and he finished second on the team in both categories, behind Crosby. For his career entering 2023, the former third-round pick had generated nine total pressures. ... Now it's on Koonce to prove the impressive end-of-the-season run was not a blip on the radar."

Take a look back at part two of the best game action photos from the Raiders' 2023 season.

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