Raiders DE Malcolm Koonce's Growth is Turning Heads

It is early, but Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce's hard work over the offseason has caught the attention of many around the organization.
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after being sacked by Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce (51) during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after being sacked by Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Malcolm Koonce (51) during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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The Las Vegas Raiders’ defense entered last season aiming to prove it had improved from the previous season.

While it was transparent early last season that the unit had improved, there was still room for the defense to take more strides in its growth. After the Raiders fired Josh McDaniels, the already-improved defense took another step in its progression. 

When the Raiders promoted Coach Antonio Pierce last season, one of the most significant changes between his coaching staff and the previous coaching staff was the switch from a team trying to force its offense to carry the team, which it was unequipped to do, to a team that was dependent upon its defense to guide them through the season. 

Once the defensive-minded Coach Pierce took over, the defense went from improved to a solid, formidable defense in the National Football League. The Raiders’ defense finished last season ranked ninth in scoring defense, mainly because of the great coaching from Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Under new leadership, Graham could try things he was not usually allowed to under the previous coaching regime. This helped spark the defense to new heights.

The Raiders' defense will likely again be the story this season, as it returns all of its starters minus one. Part of the reason the defense was so successful last season was the emergence of veteran defensive end Malcolm Koonce, who was on the opposite side of Maxx Crosby. The veteran defensive lineman is coming off the best season of his career and is entering a contract season.

Koonce’s physical growth can be seen already. His mental growth can be heard during practices as he lends his leadership to others when needed. Koonce does not say much, but his play speaks for itself. Koonce’s development has caught the eye of many of those at practice, including his teammates and coaches.

Raiders linebackers coach Mike Caldwell has seen growth from the veteran lineman in just a short time.

"I see growth in a short time,” Caldwell said last week. “He had a great year last year and came back and he's working hard, and you can see the improvement. Robbie [Leonard] is doing a good job of asking him to tweak his techniques, enhance them, get them down and he's doing it. He's out there working every day, and you can see the growth and expecting big things from him."

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Ezekiel Trezevant

EZEKIEL TREZEVANT

Ezekiel is a former Sports Editor from the Western Herald and former Atlanta Falcons beat writer.