The 2020 season was one to forget for the Las Vegas Raiders. Out of 32 teams, the Raiders had the 30th ranked defense in all of football. It’s truly a wonder that the Raiders finished at a .500 record of 8-8.
Fast forward to a season later, and the defensive woes were not only highlighted during the offseason, but made the focal point of change within the franchise.
The Raiders hired a new defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley, who recently wrapped up a four-year stint as defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. He will bring in a new level of energy and play-calling that will surely inject some life into the lethargic system the Raiders have had in place the last few years.
Issues in the secondary were some of the most prevalent for the Raider defense last season. The Raiders made significant free agent signings in Casey Hayward Jr. and bringing back safety Karl Joseph. Hayward looks locked in as a starting corner, and Joseph, the former first-round pick for the Raiders, will factor in more as a rotational safety than overtaking a starting position.
So what exactly did the Raiders do in the NFL Draft? Well they addressed the defense, first and foremost.
Out of the seven-man draft class, five were defensive players. Four were technically secondary players, with Virginia Tech safety Divine Deablo converting to weakside linebacker. Although the Raiders selected offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood with their first-round selection, the true star of this draft class could be safety Trevon Moehrig.
It is not too often you can receive a first-round talent in the second-round, but this is what the Raiders were able to do via trade-up with Moehrig. The former Jim Thorpe Award winner out of TCU has shown throughout camp that the Raiders made the right choice. It is usually looked down upon to entrust a rookie with a starting position, but Moehrig is already penciled in as the starter at free safety and has had a spectacular training camp.
The other rookie standout, who is finally getting some much deserved attention, is cornerback Nate Hobbs. The Illinois product surprised many in training camp. He took the majority of first-team reps as the primary nickel corner in Gus Bradley’s new defensive system. After a very impressive first preseason game, it seems Hobbs may have overtaken veteran Nevin Lawson in becoming the starting nickel corner.
The future looks very bright in Las Vegas as the Raiders defensive woes may finally be put to bed with the rise of these talented rookies. Factor in safety Tyree Gillespie, who should get some reps at safety as well, and the future of this team surely seems to lie within this young surge of talent. It seems that Jon Gruden and company may have finally perfected their craft in drafting after all.
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