One of the constants that surrounded the Las Vegas Raiders for years was the need for a better defense. After a couple of seasons, they seemed to have changed the narrative and their defense no longer looks to be a liability. The release of a veteran player is the latest sign they have changed their approach.
The Raiders didn’t use to pay attention to their defense
As recently as 2108, the Raiders had the league’s worst passing defense. Other than Khalil Mack, there was a scarcity of playmakers at pretty much all levels of defense. Missed draft picks was one of the big reasons for it. Cornerback Gareon Conley and defensive back Obi Melifonwu are some of the most recent examples of it. However, the Raiders’ draft miscues date back to the 2000s.
Moreover, the Raiders tried to patch their defense up with over-the-hill veterans such as Derrick Johnson and NaVorro Bowman. After years of futility, the Silver and Black have recently allocated plenty of resources to their defense.
The Raiders started the efforts to revamp their defense when they signed Lamarcus Joyner in 2019. They would later draft Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, and Trayvon Mullen the same year. Those were the first moves towards rebuilding the unit.
Damarious Randall’s release shows how much things have changed
This year, the Raiders continued the turnaround when they signed linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, two of the most coveted free agents at their position. This was a drastic shift in how much they now value their defense. While they hardly spent any money on the unit in previous years, they made sure they used free agency as a tool to get better.
The Raiders didn’t stop with Kwiatkoski and Littleton though. They added Jeff Heath, Prince Amukamara, and Damarious Randall, a trio of veterans to complement their defense. Furthermore, they drafted Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson.
While Amukamara and Randall are fine players, the Raiders knew what they had in them. Therefore, we weren’t surprised to learn they just released Randall after already having parted ways with Amukamara not too long ago. Keeping them in the roster would have slowed down the growth of their young players.
There’s something about Randall’s release that is worth noting though. A few years back, players like Randall would have had a big role in the Raiders defense. That’s no longer the case. Now that they have plenty of depth in their secondary they believed the veteran safety wouldn’t have contributed much.
The Raiders used to rely too much on veterans in past years to make up for their inefficient drafting. More often than not, that approach didn’t pay too many dividends. Now, the Silver and Black is using veterans as complementary pieces, not key components, of their defense.
The 2020 NFL season is less than 10 days away. We’ll soon find out how good this new Raiders defense is against a young Carolina Panthers team.
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