2023 No. 7 pick Tyree Wilson gets 1st full offseason for the Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Tyree Wilson (9) speaks with members of the media following an NFL football practice Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Defensive end Tyree Wilson is at Raiders organized team activities this week doing something he couldn't do a year ago.


A foot injury in his final season at Texas Tech forced Wilson, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, to sit out until well into training camp. That forced him to play catch-up last season.

Barring another injury, that shouldn't be a problem this year, giving Wilson a fresh start this week.

“It’s a big difference,” Wilson said. “You can come in not thinking about the injury you got. You can just focus on ball and your technique so you can get better every time you come on the field.”

The lack of a full offseason regimen was noticeable when Wilson began last season slowly. Wilson had seven sacks in each of his final two seasons with the Red Raiders, but didn't have one in Las Vegas until Week 7 against the Chicago Bears.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham moved Wilson inside during the season, going with Malcolm Koonce to join Maxx Crosby on the edge. Wilson began to show glimpses of why the Raiders made him such a high pick when he had two sacks in his final four games while coming off the bench.

“Me bumping inside really just slowed down the thinking and helped with my eyes and my hands,” Wilson said. "You really don’t have much time to think. It’s on you quick, so all you can do is react. And then when you work on the inside and then move back outside, everything slows back down.”

Graham said he likes to move young pass rushers inside because it helps get them more comfortable competing at the NFL level.

“It teaches them to use their hands because they’re dealing with the more immediate block from the guard or the center,” Graham said. “I thought that was really critical to Tyree’s development that’s going to help him out on the edge.”

How Wilson will be used this upcoming season remains to be seen, and OTAs are a key part of Graham and his staff figuring that out. Wilson might have to again find playing time as a backup.

Crosby and Koonce combined for 22 1/2 sacks last season, so Wilson likely will have a difficult time breaking into the starting lineup at end. Crosby has long been an elite pass rusher, and Koonce answered a zero-sack season the year before with eight in 2023.

The inside is pretty well spoken for as well. The Raiders pulled off one of the offseason's top free-agent signings by landing defensive tackle Christian Wilkins from Miami, and he could be teamed with John Jenkins — who started all 17 games last season — on the interior.

Wilson said he can benefit wherever he finds playing time, at end or tackle.

"I can pick Maxx’s brain, but I can also pick Christian’s brain because he plays inside and is real dominant on the technique of taking on bigger guys and being stronger and low in the gaps to be able to tackle the running back,” Wilson said.

Wilkins knows what it's like to enter the league with high expectations and experience the early growing pains common in the NFL.

The Dolphins drafted him 13th overall in 2019 out of Clemson, and though he quickly became one of the league's most dynamic run-stoppers, Wilkins took time to develop into a top pass rusher. He had 11 1/2 sacks over his first four seasons in Miami before breaking through with nine last season.

Maybe Wilson will follow a similar path, but he and the Raiders hope it doesn't take until his fifth season for him to become a consistently effective pass rusher. Fully healthy, he could show that kind of promise this season and justify why the Raiders drafted him so high.

He never had much of a chance last season after sitting out OTAs, minicamp and most of training camp.

“At the beginning was frustrating because you’re coming in from college being that guy, and then you're back at the bottom and you've got to work your way back up," Wilson said. "But as the season went on, you don’t have time to really think because the season keeps moving on and you've just got to come to work and get better.”


Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell said on Crosby's podcast, “The Rush,” that he changed his jersey number from No. 4 to No. 12 this year because he didn't want to disrespect New Orleans Saints QB Derek Carr. When Carr was in Las Vegas, he wore No. 4, which was the jersey number O'Connell was given as a rookie last season.

“I didn't pick 4,” O'Connell said. “I was actually 9 and Tyree wanted 9, so they gave 9 to Tyree in the first week I was here last year. They gave me 4, and I was a rookie and (you) do what you're told. In the offseason, I felt this was Derek's number.”