Johnathan Abram is the latest player on the Las Vegas Raiders to polarize the fanbase. Some love his physical style of play, which brings back memories of Raiders’ defenses of old that opposing teams feared. Others see him as a player who takes too many risks and doesn’t fit into the modern NFL game. There are a lot of ugly parts to his game he needs to work on, but there is also a ton of good. The jury is still out on if he will be the long-term answer at safety for the team, but give the safety some time.
The ugly part of Johnathan Abram’s playing style with the Raiders
Let’s just start with what is most recent in most of Raider Nation’s minds: The whiffed coverage at the end of the Kansas City Chiefs game that led to a Travis Kelce touchdown. Abram bit on the threat of Patrick Mahomes running, leaving his zone, and the tight end wide open.
The play was a microcosm of Abram’s biggest weakness as a safety – coverage. It is the main reason that Pro Football Focus has him as the league’s second-lowest graded safety in the NFL. This is a huge issue for a player at his position, considering it is the position that is the last line of defense to stop big plays.
Even worse is the fact that Abram’s playing style makes him miss a lot of tackles. He has eight missed tackles on the year, over 12 percent of his tackle attempts. If Abram is going to be with the Raiders for a long period of time, it is a part of his game he is going to have to improve.
The good in the sophomore safety’s performance
The Kelce play wasn’t pretty, and many will remember that whiff over the other great plays Abram made that same game. that same aggression that had him shoot out of his zone to the line of scrimmage is also what makes him so good at times. As the below Tweet notes, Abram probably wishes this was the final play on film:
:40 1st and 10
Johnathan Abram wishes his game ended on this high note for him.
Looks like six rushing to Mahomes, he quickly gets the ball to the flat to Darrel Williams who looks unaccounted for. In flies Abram to make a huge tackle in bounds – forcing the final KC timeout. pic.twitter.com/g9fWDgARnf
— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) November 23, 2020
The Raiders drafted Abram in the first round of 2019’s draft because he can hit. He has 43 solos tackles on the year and it seems like at least half of them belong on the highlight reels. Look at the tape, and even when the safety doesn’t make the tackle, he is involved in the play. His relentless motor will get him in trouble sometimes, but also makes his play pop as loud as his hits.
Abram has started every game he’s played in this season. (He missed one game due to being on the COVID-19 list.) This shows that despite his weaknesses in coverage, the coaching staff likes what he brings to the defense, and feels like his ceiling is high. Keep in mind the Mississippi State standout saw one game as a rookie, and this offseason lacked a ton of live reps.
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The bad when it comes to Johnathan Abram
The bad is Abram’s attitude, but not bad like the Raiders’ defense as a whole. Great coaches and general managers look for more than just stats in a player. Abram has the personality that fits the defense Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock envision.
Gruden would like to get the Silver and Black back to the mystique that the team had in its heyday. Then, the defense was feared by opposing teams. Names like Jack Tatum and Lyle Alzado come to mind. Wide receivers and quarterbacks wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before. That’s what Abram brings, an attitude. He constantly jaws with his opponents after the play, trying to get them to do something out of hand. Undoubtedly coaches highlight him and tell their players to watch for Abram coming in hot.
Abram also has racked up a number of personal foul penalties, but that’s something he can fix with time. Many fans are expecting the safety to come in and play like an All-Pro, which just isn’t feasible. He is still getting his feet under him, and this year will still provide plenty of growing pains. Give Abram more time before anybody makes a final judgment.
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Top Photo: Ben Margot/Associated Press