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Malcolm Koonce placing emphasis on mental side of the game heading into Year 4

Patrick Graham can't help but smile seeing Malcolm Koonce grow into a leader in real time.

The Raiders defensive coordinator was pleasantly taken off guard during offseason workouts while watching the defensive line go through individual drills. He saw the usually reserved Koonce giving tips on proper technique to the young UDFAs who recently joined the room.

"Coaching them up with authority," Graham said of Koonce. "'It's like this, do that.' Once you see that, that's showing command of his craft. ... [A]s a teacher who happens to teach football, I was just proud. I was just giddy."

Not too long ago, Koonce was seeking advice in the same fashion from teammates like Maxx Crosby, who he started opposite of in 11 games last season.

Eight sacks and three forced fumbles later, Koonce is heading into Year 4 as a true leader of the defense – even if he doesn't quite yet consider himself one.

"I don't know about a leadership role, but I just think that I've been here for a while, so I understand," Koonce said Tuesday during OTAs. "I don't know, it just feels like it was yesterday that I was one of those guys coming into the building. So, I understand certain things that I was missing at the beginning that maybe I can help them with."

As he's continued to grow over the last three seasons, he still takes an "if it ain't broken, I ain't trying to change it" mentality. He's not prone to having strict goals on the stat sheet, citing not wanting to get too ahead of himself. He's more concerned about the present and improving day by day, upholding his same training program.

If there has been any change, it's been geared towards the mental side of the game than the physical by honing his craft in the film room, meticulously studying himself and other pass rushers in the league.

"I don't think really anything's different," Koonce said of his preparation for Year 4. "I think it's just me just focusing on trying to hit the ground running, not losing a step, just more focus on – I know what the baseline is now. .. I'm watching guys across the league and seeing guys similar to my stature, how they get sacks and how they play the game and stuff like that. So, I think it's that and then also just being out here and really focusing on being present in what I'm doing."

Koonce finds himself in arguably the best defensive line unit he's had since arriving to Las Vegas. Along with himself and Crosby, the team added "another personality in the room" in the talented Christian Wilkins.

However, much like his own game, Koonce isn't feeding into any of the outside hype regarding the defensive line.

"I think it's more of just us being ourselves," he said. "That's what I think. Last year, toward the end of last year, that's basically what it is – just playing with our personality and being ourselves and going out there just happy to play."

The Las Vegas Raiders held their Inspire event for girls flag football players featuring combine and skills challenge events, a coaches clinic and high school All-Star football games.

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