April 15, 2024

Antonio Pierce expands on DT Christian Wilkins’ potential impact

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Antonio Pierce is raving about the potential impact of free-agent signing Christian Wilkins.  

“And now we’ve got somebody on the front [to match] with [defensive end] Maxx Crosby,” Pierce said of the defensive tackle, via ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “And that’s what we’re looking for. I think for us to get a player of his caliber, the way he’s played over the last, really his entire career, it’s going to be a blessing for Raider Nation.”

Wilkins —who signed a four-year, $110M deal— is coming off a career year. In 17 games with the Dolphins in 2023, the 28-year-old logged career highs in sacks (nine), tackles (65), pressures (30) and quarterback hits (23).

Adding Wilkins should give Crosby the help he needs. Last season, the three-time Pro Bowler played on 1,081 defensive snaps in 17 games, the second-highest mark in his career. This pace is taking its toll, as he underwent hand and knee surgery in January.   

Along with Wilkins and Crosby, the Raiders have edge-rusher Malcolm Koonce. In 17 games last season, the 25-year-old finished with a career-high eight sacks and 17 QB hits. Jonathon Macri of Pro Football Focus named him as a 2024 breakout candidate.

Pierce explained having formidable pass-rushers on the D-line may give Raiders LB Robert Spillane more opportunities to generate pressure.

“Yeah, it makes life easy for me,” Pierce said, per Gutierrez. “Because now [offenses], they’re worried about blocking those four guys and not me, allowing me to be able to run. And that’s what’s going to happen for Robert Spillane as well. You’re going to have to deal with Maxx Crosby, Malcolm Koonce, I mean, obviously, Christian.”

Last season, Las Vegas had 46 sacks. Don’t be surprised if the Raiders surpass this figure in 2024.