With the 2019 season right around the corner, this is a good time to start getting to know your 2019 Oakland Raiders better, starting with the defensive backs.
Strong Safeties: Karl Joseph, Johnathan Abram, Dallin Leavitt, Jordan Richards
Since Jon Gruden took over last season, there’s been a lot of trade rumors circulating the Silver & Black, especially around Karl Joseph. The Raiders added fuel to that fire when they drafted Johnathan Abram at the end of the first round in this year’s draft, and with the additions of Lamarcus Joyner and Abram, a Joseph trade does not sound far fetched.
As of now, however, it looks like Joseph will be suiting up in a Raiders uniform. Joseph played very well to close out the 2018 season, and he should be an integral part of this year’s defense.
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Abram was selected with the 27th pick in the 2019 draft, and he brings a lot of the same skills to the table as Joseph. Abram plays like a hard-hitting, box-safety, but he has the potential to be much more than that. He’s fast, a big hitter, an excellent tackler, and he’s athletic enough to cover receivers in one-on-one match-ups. He’s got the potential to be a leader on this defense in the future, especially since the Raiders seem ready to move on from Joseph after this season.
Free Safeties: Lamarcus Joyner, Erik Harris, Curtis Riley
Lamarcus Joyner was one of the Raiders’ best offseason pick-ups and is easily one of the most underrated signings in the NFL this offseason. He was inked to a four-year, $42 million contract, and is arguably the best player on this defense. He’s easily the teams best free-safety, and he’s been taking reps at slot-corner during offseason programs, so we’ll likely be seeing him all over the field. The addition of Joyner is huge to this young secondary, and his presence alone will make the players around him better.
Erik Harris had to endure a lot to get to this point in his career, but he’s finally establishing his spot on this team. In 2017 he played in 15 games for the Raiders, though he never got any reps on defense, just the special teams unit. He played defense all year in 2018 and played really well. Harris got rewarded with a two-year extension this summer, and he completely deserves it.
Curtis Riley got picked up this offseason, after spending his first four years with the Titans and Giants. He’s made 16 starts in his career, with 84 tackles, five interceptions, and seven passes defended. It’s unclear whether he’ll make the team or not.
Cornerbacks: Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson, Nick Nelson, Nevin Lawson
After a breakout performance in his sophomore season, Gareon Conley easily headlines this group. After a decent first season filled with injuries and off-the-field drama (to no fault of Conley), he managed to put up stellar numbers in his second year. He finished in the league’s top-10 for passes defended with 15, while allowing just a 72.8 passer rating while targeted, 14th best in the league. He’s established himself as an anchor of this defense and looks like the best corner to wear Silver & Black since Nnamdi Asomugha.
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Daryl Worley will likely start on the other side of the field, after signing back with the Raiders for $3 million. Worley put together a solid season last year, with 30 solo tackles, an interception, and seven passes defended, after missing the first four weeks of the year from a suspension. He should be a nice compliment to Conley across the field.
Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson were both drafted this year, with Mullen being taken at pick #40, and Johnson at pick #129. They both look like great picks. Mullen was a USA Today second-team All American and started 14 games for the national champion Clemson Tigers in 2018. Mullen posted 37 tackles, an interception, and four passes defended, along with being named the defensive MVP in the national championship game. Isaiah Johnson comes out of Houston, where he started 10 games, making 66 tackles, with two interceptions, and a team-high seven passes defended.
Nick Nelson and Nevin Lawson both look like bubble players at the moment, and they’ll be fighting to fill out the roster.
The Raiders’ defensive back group is young, but it looks very promising. Lamarcus Joyner was a huge addition, and young players like Gareon Conley, Karl Joseph, and Jonathan Abram make up an excellent supporting cast. Expect a much better Raiders secondary this year.