Raiders Way Too Early Roster Projection: Defensive Backs

The Las Vegas Raiders roster had a roster facelift in 2020. As we near the end of this series, we will look at the last part of the defense: the secondary. This is perhaps the position group with the most question marks.

We’ll try to come up with some answers to those questions as best we can given that it is only May. Before, here are the previous entries to the Roster Projection series:

Raiders Depth Chart


  1. Johnathan Abram
  2. Damarious Randle
  3. Erik Harris
  4. Jeff Heath

Outside Corner

  1. Trayvon Mullen
  2. Damon Arnette
  3. Isaiah Johnson
  4. Amik Robertson
  5. Damarious Randle

Inside Corner

  1. Lamarcus Joyner
  2. Amik Robertson
  3. Damarious Randall
  4. Isaiah Johnson

Practice Squad

Jordan Brown

Dylan Mabin



The big question here is who will start alongside Abram? I think the answer depends on what type of safety they want to put back there. If Paul Guenther wants a free safety that can patrol the deep center of the field, Randall is better suited for the role. However, the defensive coordinator could be looking for someone more comfortable playing up in the box. That player would be Erik Harris, who was serviceable last season. Somewhat of a compromise between the two would be Jeff Heath. There is another option that involves Lamarcus Joyner, but that is contingent upon some other things that I will get into later.

Related: Raiders Vault: The Fluke that was 2016

Outside Corners

After a solid rookie campaign, Mullen is locked in as the number one corner. As for the number two spot, that’s where the conudrum starts. Obviously, the coaches would prefer first round pick, Damon Arnette, to win the job, but he’s not a guarantee to do so. That being said, I think he is the favorite. His size (6’0″, 194 lbs), and experience against tough Big 10 competition should allow him to transition to the pros quickly.

The Raiders have a couple of second-year players in Johnson and Nixon. They both flashed some potential in spot duty last season and training camp. Johnson in particular could make a big jump, and I would be surprised if he did not make the roster. Nixon will be vying for a spot somewhere along the roster. Also in the mix are Prince Amukamara and Nevin Lawson. The recently signed Amukamara has a lot of starting experience, but he arguably has more bad tape than good. Lawson was adequate last year, but I think the coaching staff is hoping that enough of the younger guys step up to the point where they can show him the door.

Inside Corners

Last offseason, the Raiders signed Joyner to a very lucrative deal, which came with lofty expectations. It is safe to say that Joyner did not come close to meeting those expectations. His contract basically guarantees that he will get another shot this year, but the Raiders seem to have begun to look for his replacement. Last month, they drafted Robertson in the fourth round, a pick that was widely considered to be a steal. However, the Louisiana Tech product may take some time to develop. He mostly played outside in college, but he will likely be moving inside due to his size (5’9″, 183 lbs), which will take some to learn. Moreover, he will be facing a big step up in competition from Conference USA to the NFL.

Ultimately, those challenges, coupled with the investment the Raiders have in Joyner, will lead to the veteran starting out the season in the nickel, with the rookie seeing time in dime packages. If Robertson does look like the superior player in camp, the team could possibly move Joyner to safety. I would not be surprised if that happens at some point this season.

Back-end Roster Decisions

I have the Raiders keeping nine defensive backs on the initial roster, but do not be surprised if they keep ten. I think that a lot of the guys they have can play multiple positions, as well as special teams, which allows the team to forego an extra guy here in favor of beefing up another position group. One cut that I think may surprise some people is Amukamara. I think he will be in a battle with Johnson for the last spot. Johnson’s youth, and familiarity with the coaching staff gives him a leg up. Nixon is possibly going to have an uphill battle to see significant playing time in 2020. Lawson is a guy that team will probably feel like they can cut and then bring back if they need to.

Another possibility to consider is that the coaches could decide that they do not need to keep both Harris and Heath, as they are very similar types of players. This would free up a spot to keep another corner. I do not see that happening because both players have solid relationships with the the coaching staff and they bring so much to the table. As far as the practice squad goes, Dylan Mabin and Jordan Brown look like the most likely candidates.

That’s it for the defense. Next time, we will wrap things up with the three special teams spots.

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Top Photo: Stan Setzo/USA TODAY Sports

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