Las Vegas Raiders: Andrew Billings is the reason for trading Johnathan Hankins to Dallas Cowboys

The Las Vegas Raiders didn’t take many steps to improve their inside line of defense prior to the start of the season. The mix of players didn’t inspire confidence and the early returners didn’t fare well in the first six games.

Because of this, Johnathan Hankins’ trade caught everyone off guard, leaving the overall position disappointing. Hankins has been a fan favorite, wearing the silver and black since 2018. However, his game has started to slip lately and we didn’t see the same impact that the Hankins run defender was expecting.

The former Ohio State Buckeye’s performance made him expendable in the eyes of the Raiders coaching staff. Also, the young players behind him have a chance to make a difference and Bilal Nichols has improved over the season.

There’s a player who plays the same position as Hankins who’s bouncing back after a bad year. Andrew Billings stepped up as a run defender in the first and second losses, helping the Raiders control rushing attacks for most of the season.

While there wasn’t a massive impact on the numbers, Billings does his job, causing disruption and allowing linebackers to move freely behind him and make plays. It was his specialty coming out of Baylor and it’s on full display in the first half of the season.

Billings had his best performance of the year against the Houston Texans. PFF said he was the second tallest player in Week 7 behind Duron Harmon. He disrupted throughout the game and helped slow down a game in progress with one of football’s most talented defenders.

This third and one game late in the game shows its impact in the run game. Billings keeps his pad low to gain leverage, then uses his power to force the guard back into the running back. Dameon Pierce had nowhere to go, and a significant part was the big man inside.

Here he is against the Texans in another running game where he blows up the outer zone. Pierce can still find yards, but you see the chaos from Billings defending the run.

The former Baylor Bear is on the younger side compared to Hankins. Billings is still 27 and with a season missed to take precautions. As a long-term starter, there’s more upside potential as Hankins nears the end of his career.

While Hankins was a fine raider for many years, the regime felt it was time to move on. Players like Billings made it easier than ever to help.

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