Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas are the new kids on the block in the Raiders defense.
And they're definitely hangin' tough and got the right stuff.
Aside from those corny puns if you caught them, the Raiders defense is expected to be at full strength this season with several of their new additions on the defensive line ready to step up. Ngakoue and Thomas are the two new guys that come to mind who have had previous success in the league and will play a leadership role to the young, emerging defense.
Ngakoue is notably back with Gus Bradley, who drafted the defensive end while head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two are looking to recreate the magic they had a glimpse of in their short time together.
Thomas is a guy that knows what it takes to reach the league's biggest game. He played in the Super Bowl two years ago with the San Francisco 49ers -- the team that drafted him third overall in 2017. Thomas has seen the success of Ngakoue from afar, and considered him and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli as motivating factors behind joining the Raiders' rebuilding defensive line.
"I knew of Yannick, obviously because of the player he is. He's a top rusher in the NFL and always has been. ... Everyone else in the D-line room, I've gotten really close with. We have a really great room.
"We're all talking together, making jokes, laughing together and then on the field, it's all serious. We're pushing each other, we want everyone to be the best. Every drill is a competition, and that's the kind of energy that Coach Marinelli brings. He wants us to push each other in every drill, compete in every drill.
Ngakoue is also a big advocate for Coach Marinelli's energy and labels the coach as someone who has taken him under his wing since he's arrived to Las Vegas.
"He wants me to lead and he wants me to be able to direct this group the right way," Ngakoue said. "I take that on my shoulders and I'm excited about that. I'm happy to be one of the leaders on this team – that's how I view myself.
"I just feel like I was a Raider all along, it just took me a while to get here."
The most intriguing part about Ngakoue and Thomas signing with the Raiders is how they will fit next to the Raiders' 2019 draft class standouts Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Despite injuries and COVID-19, Ferrell had a productive season, with a 76.1 PFF overall grade for the 2020 season. Crosby has lead the team in sacks the past two seasons and could potentially become one of the most lethal edge rushers in the league besides Ngakoue.
"I just feel like I was a Raider all along, it just took me a while to get here." Yannick Ngakoue
Both Ngakoue and Thomas have been impressed with the cohesion and closeness of the defensive line room. No. 91 has even compared the room to his 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line that was second in the league in sacks and made it to the AFC Championship Game. Ngakoue put the league on notice earlier this offseason declaring that "Maxx and myself are the best duo that's going to come hit the scene."
Before becoming teammates, Thomas and Ferrell had already developed a relationship as they've trained together in the offseason for two years now. Thomas took notice of how Ferrell "is very meticulous about his work [and] very detailed."
"They're just being leaders," Thomas said about Crosby and Ferrell. "Pushing us on the field, setting the standard every play, every drill, in the meeting room.
"We have a defensive line room that's going to be able to help everybody get better. No one is going to hide information, no one is going to hide knowledge. Guys are pulling for each other. We want each other to all be the best because we all need to be the best if we want to go where we want to go."
The two new pieces to the Silver and Black defensive line will have their work cut out for them this season. The Raiders had the fourth-lowest sack total in the league last season.
The Silver and Black finish off their first week of 2021 Training Camp with a practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center.