After releasing Rasul Douglas on Monday, the Raiders have already begun trimming the defensive back room. Regardless, the Raiders will have to get down to 80 players by Tuesday and more defensive backs are likely to be included in that group.
The Obvious Keepers
Of course, the Raiders have plenty of defensive backs who are assured roster spots. While these players are here due to their talent, their draft slot also plays a huge role. The two likely starters on the outside this year are Trayvon Mullen and Casey Hayward. In the case of Mullen, he was comfortably the Raiders’ best cornerback last season. Starting in all 16 games and recording 2 interceptions and 14 passes defended, Mullen looks to cement himself as a defensive centerpiece going forward.
For Hayward, he has the best pedigree of any cornerback in recent Raiders history. Las Vegas is also very familiar with Hayward as he comes to the Silver and Black after five years with the Chargers. In his time in California, he developed into one of the NFL’s best corners. Much of this development happened under the tutelage of his defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, who was with the Chargers for four seasons. However, he has lost a bit of a step since his days as an elite corner. Regardless, he is a quality starter in the NFL who has great knowledge of Bradley’s scheme.
Another keeper is last year’s first-rounder Damon Arnette. Simply, the Ohio State product struggled in his first season. The struggles included concussions, getting beat on game-deciding plays, and positive Covid-19 tests. However, all hope is not lost for the young corner. A talented player, he will get a clean slate in 2021 to prove he belongs in Las Vegas. If he can stay on the field this season, Arnette should be able to take advantage of Gus Bradley’s more simplified defense.
Lastly, Nate Hobbs has nailed down a starting spot in 2021. The pre-season star is a shoo-in to be the starting slot cornerback. Truly a deserved honor, the fifth-round rookie has shown the ability to play with tremendous energy and high-level instincts. Can he keep it up in the regular season? That’s to be determined but he will be one of the most exciting players on the roster in the upcoming season.
Corners With Work to Do
As usual, there are plenty of players at this position fighting for a spot. In a league where you likely keep seven cornerbacks, only three spots are left for the last five players. These players include a good mix of slot and outside corners as well. The only player of the group with almost no chance of making the roster is Blidi Wreh-Wilson. A special teamer, he does not have the status that the other players do.
Two players very likely to snatch up the last two spots are Amik Robertson and Isaiah Johnson. Both young players were drafted on day three and play different positions within the defense. Amik Robertson is a promising young slot corner who plays with a lot of energy and could be a valuable special teamer. For Johnson, he is a highly athletic young player with position versatility that makes him all the more valuable.
Unlikely to make the team are Nevin Lawson and Keisean Nixon. Both saw significant playing time in Vegas last season, but that was mostly due to a lack of other options. Simply, neither are really viable options, and don’t look out of place against third-stringers. Alas, players with experience are coveted by coaches all around the league, so they will likely still find jobs.
The hardest part of the year for NFL teams is right around the corner. Cutting players is not an easy task and the Raiders have some tough decisions to make regarding many positions, but especially at cornerback. However, one thing is for sure: the Raiders will be much more talented in the secondary in 2021.
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