Cohesion, togetherness, unity.
That's the common theme of the Raiders defensive line this season.
The defensive line has been the position group that has seemed to take the biggest vocal criticism from most. The Raiders have recently set historically low sack totals and struggled with stopping the run. After going 8-8 and barely missing the playoffs last season, the Raiders knew something had to change upfront.
The front office has now placed the Raiders defensive line in a position to succeed. The depth on the line has become a huge priority, bringing in Pro-Bowler Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, Solomon Thomas, Darius Philon, Matt Dickerson and drafting Malcolm Koonce out of Buffalo.
While much of the defensive line looks very new going into the season, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell remain. The two 2019 draft picks have more responsibility than ever to make things work for the newly rebuilt D-line. Both third-year players have come to realize that chemistry must be built off the field first to translate over on Sundays.
"It's easy to grow relationships with guys who are willing to come into a new environment, a new organization and be nothing but good energy all the time," Crosby said Wednesday. "Yannick, Solomon, Q [Quinton Jefferson], all those guys are ready to prove what they can do. They've all had success in this league, but we all want to do it together and be the best."
"So at the end of the day, we have to do it together. Four equals one at all times. ... I want to build those real relationships off the field and that translates to the field at the end of the day."
Ferrell also shared the same sentiment as Crosby on the look of the new line.
"I think the biggest thing we're just trying to focus on is cohesiveness," said Ferrell. "Obviously the depth chart is going to be what it's going to be at the end of camp, but this is probably the biggest D-line group we've had since I've been here.
"It's kind of crazy because we have such a different mix of guys. Like guys who are trying to prove themselves, guys that are kind of already established, guys who have had some success early, guys who have kind of been steadfast in the league like Hank [Johnathan Hankins]. ... I think the biggest thing though is we have a good leader in Coach [Rod] Marinelli. He talks big on being being collective, being a leader of the defense and that's what we're trying to be."
Ferrell has also been trying to form relationships with his new teammates, and has even trained with new teammate Solomon Thomas in the offseason for two years now.
"Solly's always been a guy who's been a good, good guy and our conversations -- really more so [we] talk about what's our mindset in trying to get better every day," said Ferrell. "How are we doing off the field and just being there for each other.
"He's my guy, he's my brother, I love him."
As the chemistry continues to grow with the defensive line, there's a sense of urgency among the group. There's no more time left to be emerging talents. They have to be successful now.
"I'm fired up about the room," said Crosby. "We have a lot of potential, but I'm sick of saying that word. I hear it every single year. I'm ready to just go out there on Sunday and play at a very high level."
View photos from another day of practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2021 Training Camp.