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Raider Film Room: Welcome back Benson Mayowa

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Oakland Raiders v San Diego Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Just about every position group on the Raiders roster has been upgraded during free agency. The defensive end position however has not been upgraded. But a familiar face has just returned to Oakland and he just might be poised for a breakout season.

Former Raider Benson Mayowa has bounced around the league, playing on 4 teams in his 6 NFL seasons. He is now back with the team on which he got his first professional start and meaningful playing time.

Mayowa played on the Raiders during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Not a flashy player, he was more of a reliable rotational player who had the benefit of rushing opposite All-Pro Khalil Mack.

Since leaving the Raiders he has improved his play each season. Here’s a look at Mayowa’s progression throughout his career.

2014-2015 with the Raiders

As a young player on a developing roster, Mayowa (95) did show he was green behind the ears. Not a quality pass rusher but a man who played with good effort. In this play against the Broncos, Mayowa is lined up as the right defensive end. He reads for run first and when he sees the pass to the flat, he spins out and tracks down the receiver.

Fast forward to 2015, Mayowa still hasn’t turned the corner as a pass rusher, but he continues his strong play against the run. Again lined up as the right defensive end, he does a good job of not getting out leveraged against the reverse and makes a tackle for loss. In both of these clips we see a player who trusts his coaching and as a result is in a good place to make a play.

Mayowa finished his first stint in Oakland with 2 sacks in 2 seasons as a situational defensive end mostly asked to play the run.

2016-2017 with the Dallas Cowboys

As a Cowboy, Mayowa (93) enjoyed the best statistical performance of his career. Career highs in starts and sacks with 6 each, Mayowa showed growth as a pass rusher more than anything. In the above play he again lines up at the right defensive end but this time he goes up against All-Pro Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth. Mayowa converts speed to power and attacks the blocker with a bull rush followed by a push-pull move to disengage.

This goes down as a shared sack with his teammate. What is shows most is how Mayowa is learning the nuances of winning as a pass rusher.

Mayowa continues to prove his mettle as a run defender with the Cowboys. This play is an example of a gap exchange where he stunts inside to the B gap and the linebacker behind him becomes responsible for the C gap. Going up against a guard, Mayowa shows great strength to lock out, read the path of the running back, shedding the blocker and making a tackle in the backfield.

2018 with the Arizona Cardinals

Mayowa was part of the rotation at defensive end opposite from Pro Bowler Chandler Jones. Mayowa continued to make an impact with his reps against the run. In the play above the Mayowa (91) lines up on the defensive left side. He shoots into the backfield against the eventual Super Bowl runner-ups on this zone play and captures the running back in the backfield. It’s obvious the game is slowing down for him at this stage in his career when compared to the young player we are more familiar with who played in Oakland.

This is probably Mayowa’s most impressive rep as a professional football player. Lined up on the defensive left side against Pro-Bowler Mitchell Schwartz, Mayowa strings together several moves (jap step inside, two hand swipe, long arm, push-pull) in quick succession to get the sack against the Chiefs. Mayowa may not have been asked to be a full time player at any point in his career to date, but he is showing how his hard work paying off.


Mayowa has gained at least 15 pounds of muscle since his first stint in Oakland. He is visibly at the biggest and strongest of his career. He has the requisite bulk to play defensive end in Paul Guenther’s scheme. Journeymen often have the advantage of knowing multiple schemes and techniques.

Playing under multiple defensive coordinators and defensive line coaches gives Mayowa a better chance at picking up a new scheme quickly. At the very least he provides the defense with a quality run defender who can play on either side with a little upside as a pass rusher. At best, Mayowa will be able to show what he has learned during major playing time. In that scenario, the new Raiders pass rusher could be poised for his best season to date.