The Las Vegas Raiders got their first-ever road win last week against the Carolina Panthers. This week, they get to christen their brand new stadium. Although there will be no fans in attendance, they will still be in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. Jon Gruden will look to make a statement and show that his team is ready for the playoffs in his third year. Last week, the offense showed it has enough talent to put 34 points on the board. This week, they go against one of the top offenses in football with Sean Payton and Drew Brees running things. Here are three defensive players that need to play well for the Raiders to start the 2020 season with a 2-0 record.
Johnathan Abram played well for the Raiders in Week 1 against the Panthers
No. 1 Johnathan Abram
After safety Johnathan Abram missed all but one game in 2019 as a rookie, many were chomping at the bit to see him on the field in 2020. His first game against the Denver Broncos looked promising as he displayed what is sure to be his trademark – hard hits. Unfortunately, those blows also took a toll on him. Abrams injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the year.
Well, he picked up right where he left off in 2020, sans the friendly fire. Abram paced the team with 13 total tackles, including one tackle for loss. He acted as a heat-seeking missile, frequently charging downfield to stop Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. Check out this big hit he laid on him:
— Christopher M. Schaefer (@CsuccessS) September 14, 2020
Against the New Orleans Saints, he’ll be tasked with a similar role. With the team’s star wide receiver, Michael Thomas out with an ankle injury, the Saints will rely heavily on the run. Like McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara is an elite back, but the Saints also have Latavius Murray to spell him from time to time. This means he will stay fresh. Can Abram stay fresh too while continuing to punish offensive players? Can Abram keep up his big hits while keeping himself healthy?
No. 2 Damon Arnette
Damon Arnette is the second first-round defensive back the Las Vegas Raiders have taken in as many years. The team has high hopes for him year one, slotting him in as a day one starter against the Panthers. Unfortunately, it will likely be a day he wants to forget. Arnette allowed four catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Most of it was on a 75-yard catch and run by Robby Anderson. The statistics also made for a perfect passer rating when he was targeted.
Arnette will have a huge shot to bounce back in primetime against the New Orleans Saints. The team will be without their star wide receiver Michael Thomas, which leaves veteran Emmanuel Sanders as the top passing option, along with tight end Jared Cook. Arnette shouldn’t have to worry about Cook, but Sanders is a different story.
Sanders was once an elite receiver in the NFL, but the 33-year old hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2016. Nonetheless, he can still play, and if Arnette isn’t careful, he could end up getting burned by Sanders. He is still as good a route runner as there is in the league. However, he isn’t going to beat Arnette like Anderson did last week. Look for Arnette to have a much better game on Monday Night Football.
No. 3 Johnathan Hankins
As an interior defensive lineman, unless your name is Aaron Donald, it is unlikely that you are lighting up the stat sheet. Most defensive tackles are lunch pail guys that only get their name called when they do something wrong. Hankins is one of those guys. In fact, last week his only recorded stats was one tackle.
However, Brian Baldinger highlights how Hankins plugged up a hole that sealed the Raiders’ week one victory:
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 14, 2020
Looking forward to the Saints, Kamara is a great dual-threat guy, and Murray acts as more of the bruiser. Without Thomas in the passing game, there is no doubt the team attempts to rely heavily on these two. For Hankins, it will be business as usual as he looks to keep runners from bursting through the line of scrimmage from the middle of the field.
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Top Photo: Peter Joneleit/Associated Press