When Las Vegas Raiders kick off the 2020 season, they will do so on the road against the Carolina Panthers. There are many Raiders players to keep an eye on. However, there are three Raiders fans that deserve your attention in the Silver and Black’s very first game of the season.Â
It’s time for the Raiders sophomores to step up
The Raiders drafted defensive end Clelin Ferrell, safety Johnathan Abram and cornerback Trayvon Mullen in 2019. All of them were chosen high in the selection process and showed flashes of talent last year. Nonetheless, they still have plenty of room for improvement in 2020. Defensive end Maxx Crosby outplayed Ferrell even though he got his name called in the fourth round while Abram missed pretty much all his rookie season with a shoulder injury. Mullen might have been the best of the bunch, but now needs to show he can hold the starting corner job the whole season.
The Raiders finished the 2019 season with the 24th ranked defense in points allowed. If they want to improve, they will need their last year’s selections to take a step forward in their development. They all have talent, they went early in the draft for a reason. Nevertheless, it’s time for them to turn that potential into production. Without further ado, here are three Raiders players that need to play well against the Panthers. Coincidentally, they are the Silver and Black’s sophomores.
No. 1 S Johnathan Abram
No surprise here, Johnathan Abram should be on everyone’s radar. He had his rookie year cut short, only playing in the opener last season. In that sole game, he showed he is fearless and can get after the ball, layout a good hit, take a hit, and keep on hitting.
— Chris Reed (@ChrisReed_NFL) September 13, 2019
He was the “hardest hitter in the SEC” for a reason, check this hit out:
The Strongest safety in the upcoming draft is Johnathan Abram from Mississippi State. Abram famously ended the Bulldogs spring game early in 2017 after delivering a devastating hit to a running back. When you watch his game film, its obvious Abram only knows one speed. pic.twitter.com/ydesHEAKW1
— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) March 7, 2019
That kind of playing style cut Abram’s rookie season short. The Raiders surely like his motor, but the sophomore safety has to be smarter when tackling opposing players.Â However you want to slice it, he is probably the one people want to see most as he covers the strong safety position amidst an unproven secondary. There is a lot of hype behind him, mostly warranted as he loves talking trash, but he delivered in the season opener last year, and I believe he will deliver again. Hopefully, injury-free this time.
No. 2 DE Clelin Ferrell
Clelin Ferrell was the Raiders’ very first draft pick last season, and No. 4 overall. That left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, considering people that were still available, and it sparked this gem:
No matter the name announced when #Raiders make their selections, there won't be consensus amongst #RaiderNation
There's bound to be another Clelin Ferrell reaction from the crowd during draft coverage.
— Ray Aspuria (@RaynMaker82) January 21, 2020
A lot of people felt he was a reach, and his rookie season, while it wasn’t horrible, did not do much to silence his doubters. Now, he will have the opportunity to silence critics, and he will do it very close to a place he called home, Clemson University, just two hours away from Bank of America stadium. All eyes will be on Ferrell this year to see how he rebounds his sophomore year.
Last season, part of Ferrell’s slump was due to being shifted across the line and falling ill for a couple of weeks. Once he was used consistently, Crosby, and he seemed to develop a nice little chemistry and could become a solid tandem for years to come. Beyond that, he has Arden Key sitting behind him. If we see Key on the field often this year, it will mean Ferell has struggled.
No. 3 CB Trayvon Mullen
Like Ferrell, Mullen is another Clemson product that will be close to what he called home from 2016 to 2018. He had a pretty decent rookie year and fans are eager to see how he develops in his sophomore season. Raiders have been lacking a true shutdown, or even solid corner for a while now. They are hopeful Mullen will develop enough to mold into that with rookie Damon Arnette on the other side. The bright spot here is he and Arnette should have no problem developing chemistry together as they grew up in the same area and even played for rival schools. They already are having fun talking trash.
— Vincent Bonsignore (@VinnyBonsignore) September 4, 2020
Overall, the defense should be fun to watch with all the young unproven (at the pro level) players, but let’s not forget they still have some veteran presence in Lamarcus Joyner, Erik Harris, and newly acquired Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Maliek Collins to help them all grow. We will finally get to see how they all perform on Sunday.
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Top Photo: James Plain/Raiders