Much can be said about the facelift that the Las Vegas Raiders gave their defense this offseason and the hopes this dumpster fire unit can finally turn a corner.
Much can also be said about how nearly every addition the Raiders have made to their defense this century has failed to be impactful- especially if they’re rookies (see: Gareon Conley, Jihad Ward, or Clelin Ferrell).
That’ll change in 2021. Between the signing of edge specialist Yannick Ngakoue, veteran corner Casey Hayward, and interior forces like Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson, Las Vegas has added a good amount of experience to their starting eleven. But the youth movement is still in effect, and defensively, that will start and end with one man: safety Trevon Moehrig.
Here are the three primary reasons why Moehrig’s presence will be most vital…
Stability at free safety
The 22-year-old Texas native is the ideal fit in a seemingly never-ending puzzle. Charles Woodson’s iconic return aside, no player in Silver and Black has held down the free safety position well since Michael Huff. Not good at all when we recall how unspectacular Huff was during his tenure.
If you were to create a blueprint for the ideal modern-day single-high safety, it would literally just be a picture of Moehrig; he’s rangy, fast, possesses great cover skills, and has a nose for the ball. Concerns regarding his back prevented Moehrig from being the top safety off the board this past draft. This likely cost him becoming a first-round selection. At the very least, Moehrig will help generate turnovers this secondary has lacked for years. This, in turn, will give his high-octane offense more opportunities to score.
A compliment to another Raiders safety
Off the top of my head, roughly three million Tweets/articles have been written about Johnathan Abram’s lack of discipline. That point has been cemented, so there’s no need to beat that dead and decaying horse.
Instead, what needs to be discussed is the positive impact Moehrig’s presence will have on Abram’s development. No longer will he be forced to play in a deep zone (that’s Moehrig’s territory now) but rather, he’ll be placed right near the line of scrimmage, where he thrives. Part of this is a credit to the new scheme Gus Bradley will implement. However, it also helps that Moehrig is so talented that he can be trusted with the starting role right away. In a perfect world, the tandem of Abram-Moehrig will be the face of this Raiders secondary for years to come. A terrific yin and yang combo, just call them Thunder and Lighting™ from here on out.
His versatility and feel for the game
Some guys are just born to play football, and Moehrig is one of them. His skill set was already outlined, but what can’t be downplayed is his innate ability to be around the action. The dude simply knows how to stay involved for all 60 minutes. Furthermore, he’s athletic and physical enough to play outside his comfort zone. He’s not stuck to his position in the back end, and can easily play a hybrid linebacker role for Bradley, chasing around the likes of Travis Kelce or Noah Fant. While not an excellent tackler, Moehrig does bring the level of physicality that Gruden and Mayock drool over. He will never hesitate to throw his body on the line and get dirty, which is crucial if you want to be a positionless defensive piece.
Simply put, Moehrig brings the juice. And this Raiders defense needs all the energy it can get after their ghastly 2020 performance.
Ngakoue gets more recognition as a proven sack-getter in this league but Moehrig will soon be recognized as a top young NFL safety. For the Raiders to reach new heights this season, they need both guys to produce. That being said, don’t be surprised if Moehrig ends up being the real MVP for this unit.
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*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun