After the Raiders defensive efforts leading to a couple of losses, the Raiders front office decided it was time for an overhaul. This past year’s defense allowed the 24th most total yards, the 17th most passing touchdowns (28), and the second-most rushing touchdowns (24).
To put that into perspective only the Lions and Texans allowed more rushing touchdowns. The Eagles allowed fewer passing touchdowns. The final nail in the coffin the Jets allowed fewer total yards. Yes, you read that right… the Jets. Luckily, that is in the past and as fans, we can look forward to what should be a much better unit
The Raiders’ defensive line was poor, to say the least. As a unit, they totaled only 16 sacks of the meager 21 total. To put that in perspective TJ Watt had 15. A positive from this group is they have a high motor and play until the whistle blows. Many times Crosby, Ferrell, or both were seen in the quarterback’s face and just couldn’t get the tackle in time.
This unit got a much-needed facelift this offseason. The most note-worthy signing is pro bowl end Yannick Ngakoue. Not only has Yannick already played in Gus Bradley’s scheme he’s had over 8 sacks every season of his career. Last season, arguably his best, he started in eight games and averaged a sack a game. While playing under Bradley in Jacksonville, a four-year span, he totaled 37.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
Aside from Yannick, the Raiders signed defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson, Soloman Thomas, and most recently Gerald McCoy while also re-signing Johnathan Hankins. While these signings aren’t too note-worthy the additions of Jefferson and McCoy bring in some veteran leadership and added depth.
Like Ngakoue, Jefferson also has experience with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley from his time in Seattle. As for Thomas, he allows for versatility. Like Clelin, he can play both inside and out. In other words, we could be seeing an upgraded Nascar package of Ngakoue and Crosby on the outside with Ferrell and Thomas on the inside. That should surely have opposing quarterbacks scrambling for their lives in the backfield.
Defensive line draft picks
Aside from the signings the Raiders also drafted defensive end, Malcolm Koonce, from Buffalo in the third. Koonce won’t likely see much playtime in his first season but adds depth and speed to what was a shallow group.
In 2020, the linebacker core was sub-par at best. Free-agent signing Cory Littleton was a shell of himself under Paul Guenther and his complicated scheme and Nicholas Morrow only started 11 games. The best player from this group was undoubtedly Nick Kwiatkoski. Nick’s ability to cover and stop the run made the defense tolerable to watch last season. He totaled 81 tackles, a sack, and an interception. PFF had him ranked fourth for linebackers when it came to coverage this last season.
Linebacker draft picks
As for additions to the linebacker group, the Raiders drafted Divine Deablo in the third to play linebacker. Deablo played safety/linebacker at Virginia Tech and totaled 206 tackles and 6 interceptions in his four years there. While Tanner Muse wasn’t picked in the 2021 draft I am going to take the liberty of considering him a rookie since he missed last season due to injury. While this group didn’t get as much attention it certainly got younger, faster, and more athletic.
The Raiders’ secondary has a lot to prove this season. Players like Johnathan Abram and Damon Arnette are under a microscope after having poor 2020 bouts. Luckily for both of them, Gus Bradley knows how to put players where they excel.
We should expect to see Abram in the box this season as he showed the ability to blitz and has the speed to cover. We should also see Arnette take a step up this season with the addition of veteran Casey Hayward giving him and Trayvon Mullen tips as he has played in the system since 2017.
The only player we can guarantee to see starting on a week-to-week basis is Trayvon Mullen. Mullen has been the best corner on our team since being drafted in 2019. I wish saying that meant more, but he played alongside Gareon Conley, and he constantly allowed big catches.
As stated previously the Raiders brought in veteran Casey Hayward, but they also brought back safety Karl Joseph. Joseph’s role on the team is uncertain at the moment but I expect to see him get some time at box safety and strong safety. Joseph spent last season in Cleveland and racked up 67 total tackles and a pick.
Secondary draft picks
The most exciting addition to this group is a second-round steal, yeah I said it, Trevon Moehrig. Not only was he mocked to go to in the first, but he was expected to be the first safety off the board, he was the third. Moehrig offers all of what the Raiders were missing last year in safety. He is great in pass coverage, has the ability to play in man, and is going to make the QB pay if thrown his way. Not only that but he has the speed with a 4.5 40-time and 33-inch vertical while standing at 6’2″.
Not only does he have all the measurables but he is also making noise in training camp and has been running with the first team. Quarterback Derek Carr has already stated how impressed he is in an interview saying, “This guy can actually cover”. While that may not seem like much Carr is a seven-year vet and has played with and against some of the best including Charles Woodson and Tyrann Mathieu.
In the fourth round, the Raiders selected Missouri safety, Tyree Gillespie. The safety stands at six feet tall, weighs over 200 pounds, and showed the ability to cover big athletic tight ends in college including fellow rookie Kyle Pitts.
In their matchup, Gillespie allowed only one catch for eight yards. In the entirety of the 2020 season, he allowed only eight catches. It’s safe to say the secondary is better prepared for the athletic freaks that play tight end in today’s league, especially inner division.
That’s a wrap on the Raiders defensive moves and what we can expect as fans. Keep an eye out for the upcoming season’s record and stat prediction coming next week. Until next time.