After what could be Jon Gruden’s most important off-season to date, the Las Vegas Raiders were not shy about addressing their defensive woes from 2020. Rushing the passer and tackling were concerns for the young unit, however, pass coverage may have been the biggest letdown during the season. After all, the defensive backfield ranked 31st in the league.
Desperate for a re-tooling, the Raiders made sure to overhaul their secondary during a busy off-season. With a new coordinator, fresh faces, and a re-energized roster, the Raiders secondary can be a much stronger position group in 2021.
Las Vegas Raiders Overhaul Secondary Ahead of 2021
Returning Players Looking to Improve
Perhaps the brightest note in the secondary during the Raiders dismal 2020 season was Trayvon Mullen. A second-round pick in 2019, Mullen has shown flashes of brilliance at the corner position. His ability to play man coverage against quick receivers in the NFL has been an asset for the Raiders in his two years with the team.
Entering year three, Mullen could easily continue his rise with new pieces around him. Man coverage may be a niche art at the position, nowadays but is coveted, especially by the Raiders. Look for Mullen to match up against big names like Tyreek Hill and Keenan Allen in 2021.
Damon Arnette is another young corner looking to break out for the Raiders. Though skilled, Arnette struggled to produce in his rookie season. His highlights will show scrappy play and determined hustle, yet discipline is to be desired. New coordinator Gus Bradley is sure to be hands-on with the younger players on the roster. Arnette has intangibles that coaches like, though needs to fine-tune these skills. If the former Ohio State corner struggles again in 2021, his time in Las Vegas could come to an end sooner than later
New Faces Bringing New Hope
A true overhaul for the Raiders secondary wouldn’t be complete without bringing in new weapons. Looking to bring a veteran presence to the safety room, the Raiders signed familiar face, Karl Joseph. After playing last season with the Cleveland Browns, Joseph returns to bolster the unit’s tackling while mentoring young players. Casey Hayward also joins the Raiders defensive backfield, hoping to return to his Pro Bowl form. Most recently, the Raiders inked Blidi Wreh-Wilson to a deal after he spent five years in Atlanta. All three signings will provide adequate depth to the Raiders secondary.
Looking to the future, the Raiders addressed their secondary needs in the NFL Draft as well. After going offense in round one, Las Vegas selected TCU safety Trevon Moehrig in the second. A probable day one starter, look for Moehrig to provide zone coverage on deep balls. Moherig complements a group of safeties that plays the run better than the pass.
Another safety, Tyree Gillespie also joins the Raiders safety group. Already, Gillespie is impressing teammates and coaches at OTA’s. His depth would most likely be useful on special teams and in quarter packages. Finally, Illinois corner Nate Hobbs was the last defensive back selected by Vegas in 2021. Hungry for a roster spot, all incoming defenders will be working to make the final cut.
Versatility in Raiders Secondary
Gus Bradley is no stranger to making magic with the players he is given. Raiders safety Johnathan Abram may be the player most in need of this approach. He missed most of his rookie year to injury, and spent 2020 playing full-speed football, often over pursuing. While this style sounds appealing, the result says otherwise. Perhaps Bradley can use Abram as a roamer, similar to how he utilized Kam Chancellor in the “Legion of Boom.”
Being drafted as a safety, Divine Deablo is another weapon Bradley will use in his own way. Deablo will be converting to linebacker but could set himself in coverage sets too. Versatility is key for defensive backs in the modern NFL. If Bradley’s scheme compliments Deablo’s skills, the Raiders could have a Jamal Adams-type talent on their defense. The Raiders focusing on overhauling the secondary has fans hopeful for change in 2021.
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