Raiders Have One Defensive Player “Everyone is Talking About” says Sports Illustrated’s Hondo Carpenter

Maxx Crosby and Christian Wilkins will go into the 2024 season as the two national headliners on the Raiders defensive line, but the emergence of Malcolm Koonce is something that probably deserves more attention.

Koonce, who turns 26 in June, finished the 2023 season with six sacks in the Raiders’ last four games, and improved more than anyone on the roster after Antonio Pierce took over for Josh McDaniels.

“Everybody is talking about the offseason Malcolm Koonce is having,” Hondo said on the Las Vegas Raiders Insider podcast. “Every single person I have talked to has talked about Malcolm Koonce.”

Sacks are the metric that everyone follows with edge rushers, and it’s worth noting that Koonce didn’t record a single sack in 8 games under McDaniels this season.

In 9 games with Pierce as the interim coach, Koonce posted 8 sacks.

Even when he wasn’t sacking the quarterback in the second half of the season, Koonce was putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus credited Koonce with 14 pressures under McDaniels (8 games) and 38 pressures under Pierce (9 games).

There were a lot of factors that went into Koonce’s resurgence under Pierce (probably a lot that we don’t even know), but one of the most obvious adjustments that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was able to make under Pierce was the matter of Koonce’s time on the field.

Under McDaniels, Koonce only played 23.5 snaps per game, with 30 snaps being his highest single-game snap total. With Pierce, Koonce averaged 34.7 snaps per game, and he averaged 41 snaps per game in the final five games of the season.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see how the Raiders handle Koonce’s contract situation. He is a free agent after this season, and there’s no question the Raiders would like to avoid a bidding war for him a year from now.

On June 1, the Raiders will get an additional $24 million in salary cap room and there is some buzz that Koonce is at the top of the list of players the Raiders would like to extend with that money.

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