When you think back on the year that was for the 2023 Las Vegas Raiders, you have to be excited about what they were able to do on the defensive side of the ball. Maxx Crosby was once again one of the best in the game, finishing as a finalist for the AP Defensive Player of the Year honor, racking up 14.5 sacks along the way.
Recently, Kevin Patra from NFL.com put together a list of one unsung hero for each AFC team, and for the Raiders, the choice was on the defensive side of the ball.
Malcolm Koonce named Raiders unsung hero of 2023
While Maxx Crosby gets a lot of the press, and for good reason, he actually had some help coming off the edge in 2023. The hope for the Raiders when they drafted Tyree Wilson at No. 7 overall was that the rookie would come in and help Crosby in that department, but it was actually a third-year player that stepped into that role.
Malcolm Koonce thrived once Josh McDaniels was fired, notching all of his eight sacks under the combination of Antonio Pierce and Patrick Graham. He became a terror coming off the edge opposite Crosby, and finished the season with 17 quarterback hits to go along with three forced fumbles.
All told, Koonce became the kind of player that this Raiders team has been lacking, taking a lot of pressure off of Crosby, and making teams respect both sides of the line. If continues to improve at the rate he did last season, there is no reason why he cannot round into another Pro Bowl edge rusher for the Silver and Black.
Koonce is entering the final year of his deal, and we already named him as a player the Raiders should look to extend this offseason. He is the perfect complement to Maxx Crosby in the pass rush, and with how young he still is, his best football still may be ahead of him.