Raiders Need To Shake Things Up At Safety Position

On August 23rd, the Baltimore Ravens released veteran safety Earl Thomas for behavior that “adversely affected the team’ after punching teammate Chuck Clark during a practice session on August 21st. Despite the rocky conditions of the aforementioned release, the Las Vegas Raiders should consider bringing him to help bolster the safety position.

The Raiders safety group has struggled in recent weeks

The Raiders would surely want to forget their performance in their Week 4 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. None more so than possibly safety Erik Harris despite racking up a team-high nine tackles. Harris was on the unfortunate end of the biggest play of the game. Josh Allen found Stefon Diggs downfield for a 49-yard completion and Harris got turned around by a quick double move by Diggs.

The film also shows Harris looking lost and confused on several instances throughout the game on Sunday. Sophomore Johnathan Abram didn’t fare much better and has had tackling issues. The safety position has been a liability for the Raiders.

Tackling has been an issue these past four weeks

Abram is second on the team with six missed tackles while Cory Littleton leads the team with nine. In the last four weeks, the Mississipi State standout has whiffed open-field tackles. That simply can happen as he’s the last line of the defense between the ball carrier and the end zone.

Safeties aren’t supposed to allow anything deep down the field either and Harris has been snake bitten the worst. He has given up an astonishing 231 yards on just eight completions on ten targets*. That calculates out to an eye-opening 28.9 yards per completion. Harris has been a slightly better tackler on paper and has only two missed tackles on the season.

On top of those issues, neither Abram nor Harris haven’t made much of an impact in creating turnovers or deflecting passes. Abram has the only interception of the group. While Trayvon Mullen has four passes defensed.

If your safeties aren’t preventing the deep ball and can’t consistently bring the down the ball carrier on the third level your defense will forever be a victim of the explosive play. This is where Earl Thomas can make a world of difference.

Related: Nature vs. Nurture: Who’s Responsible For Raiders Defensive Struggles?

How could Earl Thomas help?

The upfront concern with Thomas is the personality issues that made him expendable back in August. However, the Raiders wouldn’t have to guarantee his contract as this signing would occur after Week 1. The veteran minimum for someone of his experience is a mere $1.05 million. That’s a relatively small amount for someone who could come in and provide immediate impact for your struggling defense.

While Thomas might not be a tackling machine like he was in Seattle, he is still a solid at bringing down the ball carries and only missed eight tackles all of last season while tallying 49 combined tackles.

Thomas is also still solid in protecting against the deep ball and creating turnovers. He has at least one interception in each of his 10 years in the league and only two seasons in which he didn’t force a fumble. Thomas saw 25 targets his way last year and gave up 11 completions for 113 yards.

Thomas also adds another solid option as a blitzing safety for Paul Guenther, something that appears to be more pertinent in this year’s game plan. Abram has blitzed 13 times this season which has only resulted in two hits and pressures. Last year Thomas was sent on 54 blitzes which produced one hurry, two hits, two sacks, and six pressures. Having two viable blitzing safeties could potentially create nightmares for opposing offenses.

Earl Thomas’ signing would benefit the Raiders in more than one way

The Raiders need someone who is a complete safety in the backfield. Someone who is not only a solid tackler but is not a liability in pass coverage. That player could just very well be Thomas. Also, Thomas is a proven veteran whose knowledge and presence can help Abram along in his progression toward being a complete safety.

This move could not only provide an immediate impact but could also provide future impact for their 2019 first-round pick. This may very well be a “high-risk high reward” type move, but it’s one the Raiders should make if they wish to remain competitive in 2020.

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Top Photo: Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

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