In the first two years under head coach Jon Gruden, the Las Vegas Raiders resorted to short-term fixes to address the defensive side of the ball. That seems to have stopped this year and instead, the Silver and Black are allocating resources to their defense.
When Gruden became the head coach, he purged the roster for better or worse. Gone were NaVorro Bowman and David Amerson. In turn, the front office added Tahir Whitehead, Daryl Worley, Emmanuel Lemur, Leon Hall and Derrick Johnson in 2018. Things didn’t work out for Johnson as he was released after playing just six games. Lemur and Hall were given the boot after just one year with the team. Things weren’t much better for Whitehead and Daryl Worley as they were both let go earlier this year because of sub-par play.
Last season wasn’t any better when it came to patching up the defense. The Raiders signed Vontaze Burfict, who ended up serving a 12-game suspension. Also, Lamarcus Joyner was brought in but possibly played out of position and was a liability in coverage at times. If he doesn’t recover his 2018 form this year, he might end up being cut. Later in the season, Las Vegas added Will Compton, who funny enough was the best of the bunch in his short tenure with the organization.
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Even though Compton was relatively solid, he hasn’t been re-signed and that is because the Raiders finally invested in a linebacker core that had been missing playmakers even before Gruden arrived. Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski struck deals with Las Vegas and they don’t come with question marks, the injury bug or a bad resume. Quite the contrary, they both were two of the most coveted players at their position this past free agency.
The Raiders didn’t stop with Kwiatkoski and Littleton as they also added Carl Nassib and Maliek Collins. It could be argued that bringing Nassib on a hefty contract was an unnecessary luxury. Nonetheless, he wasn’t inked to be a featured player but rather a key cog in the team’s defensive line rotation. He will help keep sophomores Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell fresh. Collins on the other hand may have a quasi breakout season as he was disruptive back with the Cowboys. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli didn’t vouch for Collins just because of his familiarity with him but likely because he knows what the defensive tackle can bring to the table.
In case someone thought the secondary would be neglected, the Raiders signed Dallas safety Jeff Heat, who had the highest tackling efficiency at the position last year. At this point, it’s uncertain what second-year player Johnathan Abram can do after missing pretty much the whole 2019 season, so Heath will provide consistency and won’t embarrass himself.
Those five signing will amount to a total of $99.25 million over the next three years if they collect every single cent. This season alone, the quintet will earn $36.35 million or 15% of the team’s cap. Not bad for a team that refused to spend poorly in previous years.
It’s uncertain what kind of impact the newcomers will have on defense. However, the Raiders sure are doing everything they can to put the past aside and look forward to fielding a competitive defensive unit in 2020.
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