As a whole, the Raiders’ defense was one of the worst in the league last year. Coming into this offseason, the Silver and Black knew they needed to make some upgrades. Sure enough, Jon Gruden and company added some pieces through free agency and the draft. Let’s take a look at the new Raiders secondary as whole, and determine whether this unit is better than last year’s or not.
The cornerback position for the Raiders is one full of promise and potential, yet most of that talent remains unproven. Las Vegas was able to help fix that problem by adding Casey Hayward Jr. this offseason. Hayward is a terrific addition, and he might be the most important player to join the Raiders in 2021. Hayward is getting older and is now 31 years old. But with age comes experience, which is something this defense desperately needs.
Casey will add veteran leadership and will act as a mentor for the rest of the Raiders’ secondary, which is littered with young players. Hayward is a two-time Pro Bowler, and finished the 2016 season with a whopping 7 interceptions and 20 passes defended. He’s been one of the best defensive backs in the NFL for several years now. Hayward had some of his best seasons under Gus Bradley, who he’ll be uniting with once again in Las Vegas.
Starting alongside Hayward in the Raiders’ secondary will be Trayvon Mullen Jr. In his second year, Mullen started all 16 games and finished with 2 interceptions and 14 passes defended. Mullen has shown a lot of promise in his short time in the league, and with the addition of Hayward, Mullen will no longer be tasked with defending the opposing teams best receiver. He will perform better against weaker competition, and as I mentioned earlier, learning from Hayward will do him well.
Filling out the rest of the cornerback spots will be Damon Arnette, Rasul Douglas, Nate Hobbs, De’Vante Bausby, Isaiah Johnson and Amik Robertson. Johnson and Robertson are two players to get excited about. Both are young, recent draft picks who have shown glimpses of the future, and equally frustrating growing pains.
Arnette had a rough first year, but a lot of that can be attributed to poor usage from former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Arnette is still only 24 years old, and has plenty of time to grow. Douglas has four years under his belt with the Eagles and Panthers, and is another young player fighting for a roster spot. The Raiders drafted Nate Hobbs this year, and he will be fighting for a spot in training camp alongside De’Vante Bausby.
Safety is another position that struggled for the Raiders last year, yet shows promise for the future as well. As long as they both stay healthy, Raiders fans will be looking at an exciting young duo consisting of Trevon Moehrig and Jonathan Abram taking the field next year. Abram didn’t play in his first season, and had some growing pains in his second. Abram is going to have a lot to prove in his third year.
The Raiders used their 2nd round pick on Moehrig this year. The 22-year-old is an electric player who will make an immediate impact in the Raiders’ secondary. He plays best when able to roam the field, and that’s exactly what the free safety will be doing for the Silver and Black this year. His aggressiveness is comparable to Abram’s, and Moehrig never shies from contact. These two should make an extremely physical and exciting duo when on the field together. Trevon is also great defending the pass, with 7 interceptions at TCU.
The Raiders managed to bring back Karl Joseph this offseason. Joseph had his ups-and-downs with the Raiders after being drafted by them in 2016. With that said, he managed to put in a very solid year with the Browns in 2020. Vegas also selected Tyree Gillespie with their 5th round pick this year. The Missouri safety started eight games in 2020, and finished with 46 tackles and 4 passes defended. Gillespie will be the backup free safety behind Moehrig.
Dallin Leavitt, Roderic Teamer, and 3rd round pick Divine Deable will round out the rest of the safety group. Deablo is yet another electric young player joining the Raiders’ defensive-back room. Leavitt and Teamer will both be solid depth pieces, and they will be competing against each other for a roster spot.
How Talented is This Group?
With how bad the defense was last year, the only way for the Raiders’ secondary to go was up. With that said, Vegas did a terrific job upgrading this offseason. Casey Hayward Jr. is a star, and will immediately make the defense better by himself. We expected the 2021 draft to be defensively-focused, and the Raiders did exactly that. Trevon Moehrig, Divine Deablo, Nate Hobbs and Tyree Gillespie were all selected in this draft, and they will be adding lots of talent and potential to this group. The Raiders might not have a great defense yet, but this unit is overflowing with potential.
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