Maliek Collins joined the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason after spending the start of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. While some analysts believed he’d mostly serve in a backup role, Justin Fried of Golden Gate Sports wrote on Sunday that the former Nebraska Cornhusker could be a big key to the team’s pass rush in 2020.
To make his proclamation, Fried pointed to comments made by Collins’ new head coach Jon Gruden earlier last week. Speaking to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, he said one reason Collins is going to have a significant impact this season is because of the player’s familiarity with the defensive scheme. He also sees the former Cowboy’s veteran status as a big plus.
“Collins has experience in our system. He’s been a classic three-technique. He has experience with the position coach that’s coaching him. He’s officially about to enter the prime of his career. So, he’s got a lot of playing experience. He’s got a lot of technical knowledge of what we want done.”
Gruden finished off the quote by saying that he felt Collins was the “key” to the defense. Fried said that was high praise for a player that came over to Las Vegas on a one year, $6 million deal.
The analyst agrees, Collins could be the key upfront. He called the defensive tackle one of the best three-technique tackles on the Cowboys over the last three years.
He was also given a 77.6 pass-rush grade by Pro Football Focus, according to the writer. That grade ranked 11th among all interior lineman in 2019.
The writer added that Collins was especially impressive when talking about getting double-teamed. He says the former Husker led the entire NFL in pass-rush wins against double-teams with 31. That includes beating out Aaron Donald – who had 30 – who is widely considered one of the best players in the league.
Collins was called an under-the-radar acquisition by the Raiders even though he’s spent almost his entire career as a starter. He was a backup in his rookie season for the first two weeks but ended up starting 14 games that year. Injuries in 2018 saw him appear in just 13 contests, starting nine, but he went back to starting all 16 games in 2019.
While he hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers according to the analyst, he has been solid in the middle, and the numbers he has put up are hampered by spending his time in the middle of the defensive line, drawing double teams in order to free up teammates on the pass rush.