The Las Vegas Raiders took a chance on Gerald McCoy this offseason, and he and the team could be a perfect fit for the 2021 NFL season.
When the Las Vegas Raiders worked out Gerald McCoy in early August, many were confused as to why. After all, McCoy was a 33-year old defensive tackle coming off of a season-ending injury and had not played football since the 2019 season, where he produced five sacks and played all 16 games.
The six-time Pro Bowler flashed during the Raiders Week 3 preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers and it was the first time the team, and fans alike had a chance to see the veteran on the field in a real competitive environment and the results have caused some excitement.
McCoy has been eased into training camp and football activities since being signed. He hadn’t played in any preseason games nor did he participate in the joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams. McCoy had mostly been working in individual drills and by the time he got up to speed and into team drills, the practice windows were closed.
Raiders got a great effort from McCoy in his debut
McCoy played very well in his debut. He flashed a quick first step and a devastating swim move. He was constantly in the backfield and looked like a player who could help this team in 2021. The backups on the 49ers had no chance against McCoy, but what was really impressive was his performance against the starters.
McCoy looked like one of the few players on the backup defensive line who could be a rotational pass rusher.
A rotational pass rusher is the role McCoy will be playing, and he got a lot of time on Sunday because Solomon Thomas, Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, and Darius Philon got the night off. McCoy is likely the 4th or 5th defensive tackle up in the rotation and will only be asked to produce on somewhere between 15-20 snaps a game.
If McCoy could be half of what he was in 2019, it will be a bargain for the Raiders. The Raiders have lacked an interior pass rush for years, but it seems like, between McCoy, Jefferson, Philon, and Thomas, there will be a solid rotation.
McCoy’s value also comes off the field. While fans should be excited for his flashing on the field, McCoy has already taken on a leadership role. There have been reports of McCoy helping other defensive players after practice with pass-rushing moves and hand placement.
At his peak, McCoy was a top-3 defensive tackle in football, therefore, his knowledge is priceless.
McCoy taking a leadership role is an important development. The Raiders, specifically their defense, have lacked a leader for years now. A lack of leadership and responsibility has been noted at times during the Jon Gruden era and is likely a reason as to why a noted leader in Nelson Agholor left in free agency.
The Raiders defense is still very young. While there are veterans spread out across the levels, their most important players; Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, Tre’Von Moehrig, Trayvon Mullen, etc.. are all still fairly young.
Having a veteran leader to keep the defense under control will be critical.
The Las Vegas Raiders 2021 first-round pick is ready to handle business. See how and why Alex Leatherwood is prepared for his first NFL training camp.
Jon Gruden and the Raiders have made other late training camp additions that haven’t panned out. Players like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Corey Liuget, and Theo Riddick are veterans who signed late in training camp and were handed roster spots but ultimately underperformed. McCoy has shown to be a great addition both on and off the field, and the Raiders will need him to produce on both to be a playoff team in 2021.