Starters: Johnathan Hankins, Maurice Hurst
Backups: Justin Ellis, P.J. Hall, Eddie Vanderdoes, Gabe Wright, Ronald Ollie
One of the rare positions where nearly every player who was part of the team at the end of last season is back.
One of the more important players to get back into the fold was Johnathan Hankins. He was signed early last season and was easily the team’s best interior starter all season long. Now he will have a full offseason with the team, which should help him to anchor the defensive line.
Hurst was the team’s draft steal last year. While Hankins provides the run stopping abilities, Hurst offers some interior pass rush. He led the team with 4.0 sacks last season and figures to improve in his second season with what figures to be some actual outside pass rush taking pressure off of him.
Prior to last season, the team signed Justin Ellis to a long term deal. Then he got injured and only saw action late in the season. He has never played at the level the Raiders received from Hankins last season, but will make for a good rotational piece at the nose tackle spot.
Backing up Hurst is fellow 2018 draftee, PJ Hall, who the team selected in the second round. They will be looking for him to show a lot of improvement considering he didn’t make an impact as a rookie. Either way, he isn’t pegged as a full time player.
If the team keeps five interior defenders, it will be between former third round pick Eddie Vanderdoes — who missed all of 2018 with an ACL tear — former practice squad player Gabe Wright and undrafted rookie Ronald Ollie — best known for his role on Last Chance U.
At this point none has the upper hand in the battle and either one or none will be on the squad come the season.
They have the bodies there and might have the talent as well. But that means Triple H (Hankins, Hurst, Hall) each stepping up this season. Hankins played well, but a full offseason with the team should help him and Hurst showed a lot of promise he must build on. So, they’re stable with the potential to be strong.
What condition do you think the Raiders defensive interior is in heading into camp?
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