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Film room: Malcolm Koonce continues to ascend as a pass-rusher against Chargers

Third-year pro has been on a tear recently

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Malcolm Koonce
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Arguably the biggest star from the Las Vegas Raiders’ dominant Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football was defensive end Malcolm Koonce.

Koonce logged four pressures with a career-high two sacks, both of which were strip sacks that led to touchdowns for the Raiders. His performance was good enough for an elite 91.4 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus which is the fourth-highest for the week heading into Monday Night Football.

That continues a trend of impressive play for the three-year pro as he owns the fourth-best PFF pass-rush grade (90.7) among edge defenders since Week 10. He’s also racked up 21 pressures during that timeframe which ranks 22nd at his position, but everyone ahead of him on that list has recorded more pass-rush snaps.

Circling back to the most recent game, the film highlighted how much Koonce’s pass-rush arsenal has grown recently.

The Raiders get a little creative here by putting five defenders on the line of scrimmage pre-snap and dropping defensive tackle Adam Butler in coverage while rushing linebacker Robert Spillane for a simulated pressure. That helps Koonce get a one-on-one block with Rashawn Slater, who was a second-team All-Pro as a rookie and an ascending young left tackle in the league.

However, Koonce gets the best of Slater by using a little hesitation move to get Slater to stop his feet and set up the hand-swipe to win around the outside. From there, Koonce gets low and shows off the elite bend that he has to go get the sack and finishes the rep by knocking the ball out of Easton Stick’s hands to create a turnover.

Las Vegas gives pretty much the same pre-snap look here, but Spillane drops in coverage this time, so Koonce has another one-on-one opportunity against Slater.

Throughout his career, Koonce has been good at turning speed to power as a pass-rusher. Slater likely knows that’s Koonce’s favorite move and is expecting to come at some point in the game. So, the latter works into the tackle’s body initially to sell the move and get the tackle to stop his feet.

Koonce then works back outside and uses a beautiful dip-rip move, combined with the elite bend we saw previously, to get a quarterback hit and force the ball out. This is an example of how he’s growing his arsenal and becoming a more cerebral rusher.

This rep isn’t as impressive because Stick bails from the pocket so quickly that the former third-round pick doesn’t get a QB hit or a sack here, but it’s another example of him using his biggest strength to set up an outside move.

Again, he engages with Slater to sell that he’s turning speed to power by using a long arm, but Koonce takes the arm away after contact and wins around the edge with a dip-rip move. This is the type of thing that can be the difference between an average rusher and a good or great one.

Patrick Graham continued to build on his creativity with the play above. Again, the Raiders show that five-man front with Spillane on/near the line of scrimmage and that forces the right guard to account for the linebacker in the protection scheme.

On the other side, Las Vegas is running a line game with Koonce as the looper where his job is to find and exploit the first open lane he sees. Since the guard is preoccupied with Spillane and then turns his attention to help the right tackle against Maxx Crosby, a massive void occurs in the left A-gap for Koonce to rush through.

His agility and speed are key here as he’s able to gain some ground vertically while working laterally to make it more difficult for the center to pick him up, so Koonce can flush Stick out of the pocket and throw on the run. Also, a shoutout to Adam Butler for getting away with a little defensive holding to help Koonce get a free rush.

We’ll end with the second strip sack and a big-man touchdown!

The Chargers started chipping Koonce later in the game because he was whooping Slater so badly. Here, Koonce fights through the chip and wins around the edge with a decent cross-chop move. Now, the reason why he’s able to get the sack is Crosby gets pressure on the inside and forces Stick to retreat in the pocket where Koonce is waiting for another opportunity to swipe at the ball.

As a side note, Next Gen Stats clocked John Jenkins at just under 15 mph, which is the fourth-fastest time of a 320-pound ball carrier. But my man, at no point were you ever close to 20 mph on that eight-second 40-yard dash!