Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp Preview: Inside Defensive Line

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The Las Vegas Raiders will have plenty of competition on the inside defensive line during training camp this year.

Stopping the run and generating pressure on the inside was an issue last season, and that’s why Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler focused on revamping the position this offseason.

But as the Raiders opened their first training camp practice on Thursday, they found themselves without three of their projected starters.

Potential starters

On Thursday, the Raiders placed defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins (knee/back) and Bilal Nichols (knee) on the physically unable to perform list.

Hankins, entering his 10th season in the NFL, resigned with the Raiders this offseason. He reunited with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016 with Graham as the New York Giants defensive line coach.

Hankins suffered from back and knee injuries towards the end of the season. He missed Weeks 16 and 17 and was shot limited in Week 18 and the Wild-Card playoff game.

nichols signed with the Raiders this offseason after appearing in 60 games (49 starts) with the Chicago Bears over the past four seasons.

The defensive tackle had a mutual connection with assistant general manager Champ Kelly in Chicago.

The last potential starter to miss the start of training camp was Vernon Butler. Although Butler is uninjured, he has been placed on the non-football injury list.

He started just one game, played in 10, after suffering injuries with the Buffalo Bills.

Butler was signed to compete for a rotational roster spot.

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Kendal Vickers is the only other income from a year ago.

Signed in 2020, Vickers has oscillated between the practice squad and the active roster for the past two years, and could potentially continue to do so in 2022.

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Off-season purchases

“Hopefully at some point here they’ll be back,” McDaniels said. “But I feel good with the guys we added. We have a lot of competition set to take place here in the next six weeks at many places on our roster, and that’s a good thing.

Kyle Pekojoins the Silver and Black after stints with the Tennessee Titans (2021), Denver Broncos (2016-21), Indianapolis Colts (2019) and Buffalo Bills (2018-19).

Tyler Lancasterwho had Graham and Raiders passing game specialist Jason Simmons as coaches during his rookie season in Green Bay, will be looking to make a fresh start in Las Vegas.

Andrew Billingsjoins the Raiders after spending the past two years with the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns expected to have the ex-Cincinnati Bengal productive, instead he would sit out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, and when he showed up in 2021 it was clear that he wasn’t the same player he was in Cincinnati.

He has earned another chance to change that narrative and return to being the player he was before arriving in Cleveland.

“I think we have a lot of places in our team where that’s definitely the case. And we’re going to give everyone opportunities and whatever they do with those opportunities that will dictate how we end up making decisions ultimately,” McDaniels added.

Recruited

The Raiders drafted two defensive tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft, fourth-round picks Neil Farrel Jr. and selection in the fifth round Matthew Butler.

Although both players should be on the roster, that shouldn’t be an excuse to go through training camp.

The Raiders are down three players, so now will be the time for them to take the opportunity to prepare for preseason and the start of the regular season.

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