Ask any Raiders fan what the biggest weakness of the team was last season and they’ll likely tell you it was the safety group. Reggie Nelson, Obi Melifonwu, Erik Harris, and Marcus Gilchrist are just a few of the names fans have had to watch in recent years. Of course, some long term stability would go a long way towards making fans feel better about the group.
Impact additions and returning faces
As mentioned, the Raiders safety group has been akin to a revolving door in recent years. As such, they have added multiple players to it this offseason. The biggest name being Trevon Moehrig, the Raiders second-round draft pick from TCU. A fringe first-rounder, many media outlets lauded Moehrig as one of the steals of the draft.
Moehrig profiles nicely as the single high safety in Gus Bradley’s new cover three centric defense. The Raiders will hope the 2021 season is the start of a lengthy career for the TCU product. The Raiders also spent a fourth-round pick on Tyree Gillespie out of Missouri. The rookie will likely see lots of time on special teams early on, but has potential as a guy who can match up with tight ends and be physical in the run game.
Another addition is the return of Karl Joseph. Originally a first-round pick of the Raiders back in 2016, he spent all of 2020 in Cleveland. Often miscast in the defenses of Ken Norton Jr. and Paul Guenther, the hope is that Joseph feels more at home under the tutelage of Gus Bradley. However, maybe the biggest impact Joseph will have is by pushing youngster Johnathan Abram. Joseph and Abram play a similar brand of football. Perhaps Joseph can teach him a few things.
Of course, Johnathan Abram will return in 2021. The former first-round pick will likely assume a role as the starting strong safety for Gus Bradley this season, a role that promises to put him in much better positions than last season. If Abram is truly ready to take a step forward in 2021, it will go a long way towards making the Raiders defense at least serviceable.
Special teams and depth
Unless the Raiders make more additions, the team currently only has six safeties on the roster, assuming Divine Deablo plays linebacker. The other two are the returning Dallin Leavitt and new addition Roderic Teamer. Both have played often throughout the preseason in 2021 and are likely assured roster spots.
Dallin Leavitt seems most likely to see playing time this season as he is a fixture on special teams and can play safety in a pinch. Alas, with all the additions made by the Raiders front office this offseason, they will hope Teamer and Leavitt are never on the field for significant defensive snaps.
As currently constructed, the Raiders safety group is far from perfect. However, it is without a doubt a much improved group. Johnathan Abram and Trevon Moehrig present, at the least, one of the most intriguing young safety duos in the league. Behind them, a mix of returning vets and young rookies make for the deepest group the Silver an Black have had in many years. One thing is for sure, if this group does not see improvement, Raider Nation will be vocal.
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