Running back Josh Jacobs had a successful rookie season, regardless of how you want to quantify it. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell failed to meet the expectations that come with being such a high selection, fourth overall specifically. With all the headlines those two have gotten, it’s easy to forget the Las Vegas Raiders had three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. They used their third choice, the 27th overall, on safety Johnathan Abram out of Mississippi State.
This is essentially Abram’s rookie year all over again but better
The Raiders surely hoped Abram would become their enforcer, a safety that would punish ball carriers and receivers alike. Nevertheless, that vision never happened as he got injured in Week 1 of the 2019 season. One year later, the Raiders have a very different look on defense, one that should welcome back Abram.
Now in Las Vegas, the Raiders surely expect Abram to pick up where he left off. Although he won’t be able to get back the time the safety missed with the injury, he didn’t put his rookie season to waste. It’s not the same to watch from the sidelines than to step on the field, but that’s precisely what Abram did. He watched his teammates, he took note and he learned, so even though he will pretty much start over, he will do so wiser and better equipped.
One thing in Abram’s favor is the fact the Raiders gave their safety room a makeover. They signed Jeff Heath and Damarious Randall, which means the sophomore can rely on them for advice. Also, the expectations surrounding Abram won’t be that high even though he is a former first-round pick. He just has to play on par with his potential and he should be fine. He’s had a solid training camp. He looks ready and usually in the right spot, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t do that.
The Raiders defense is still a work in progress
After so many seasons of defensive futility, the Raiders have really tried to change things these past two years. It’s taken a while and not all their moves have worked out. We are still waiting on slot Lamarcus Joyner to play the way he did with the Rams. We don’t know if Ferrell will put behind his mediocre rookie campaign and we want to see how the Silver and Black’s secondary will play.
Nevertheless, the years of patching the defense and bringing in replacement-caliber players and run-of-the-mill veterans are over. The Raiders are taking the steps to put a competent unit on the field and if Abram turns out to be the players they thought he was when they drafted him, they should be closer to their goal.
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Top Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press