One player that’s flying under the radar at Las Vegas Raiders training camp is Malcolm Koonce, and here are the early impressions of him.
A third-round pick by the Las Vegas Raiders last year out of Buffalo (yes, the same school that Khalil Mack hailed from), Koonce comes into 2022 with low expectations. He’s currently buried on the Raiders’ depth chart behind Clelin Ferrell, Kyler Fackrell, and, of course, Maxx Crosby. But training camp is a chance to make a good impression, especially now that a new head coach and defensive coordinator are in charge.
That new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, spoke to the media recently. Among the topics discussed was Koonce.
"“I remember him coming out of college at Buffalo. I really liked him when I was in the last place. And you see a player that’s fast. We’ll find out about the physicality. I know in college you saw the physicality; some of the plays from last year you saw the physicality, but the thing that stands out the most is the speed and his willingness to try to improve.”"
Coming out of college, Koonce’s biggest strengths were his speed, quickness, and hands. With sufficient awareness and playing with an aggressive streak, Koonce made a name for himself at Buffalo.
A relentless edge defender that wasn’t afraid to disengage and pursue incoming players, Koonce put those traits to work in his rookie year. He accumulated two sacks and two tackles for a loss in just 48 snaps played.
Raiders’ new DC taking notice of Koonce’s abilities
So far in camp, it’s obvious that Graham is taking notice of Koonce’s abilities. One aspect of the defensive end’s game that Graham is keeping an eye on is his physicality. Yes, Koonce’s speed is what caught the Raiders’ eye, but taking his play to another level will require more.
Graham made it a point to praise Koonce’s efforts up to this point, stating, “we asked him to narrow his focus and attack that goal, and he’s trying his best to do that, and that’s all you could ask for him to do.”
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It’s way too early to predict what Graham’s depth chart will look like after just a few days of training camp. In an optimal role, Koonce would be a rotational rusher behind Crosby. You could then have Fackrell behind newcomer Chandler Jones. We’ll have to wait and see how much faith this coaching staff has in Ferrell. At some point, it might be best to admit Ferrell has seen his best days, and in Koonce, the Raiders could look to the future.