The Las Vegas Raiders’ defense has been a hindrance most of the year. Moreover, it is a big reason the team is currently sitting at 7-7. In a crucial offseason for the Silver and Black, it will be imperative they find good young talent that can make an impact for years to come.
The Raiders’ defense has struggled not just in 2020 but for the past 18 years. One reason why that side of the ball has been so lackluster is the inability to draft good sustainable talent. Yes, they drafted Khalil Mack in 2014 but we won’t discuss that right now.
Also, outside of the Mack pick back in 2014, the selections the Raiders have made for the defense haven’t provided any major impact early on, let alone after a couple of years in the league. That is a trend the team desperately needs to buck in 2021. Going into the offseason there will be a lot of questions surrounding the defensive unit. They have to name a new defensive coordinator. Also, they ought to make some tough decisions and the young talent will have their work cut out to break a tradition that is almost two decades old.
This Las Vegas team certainly has talent on defense. Nevertheless, there are one too many holes for them to be a complete unit as of right now. In rounds one and two the Raiders can find some high-level talent that should provide stability to some crucial positions going forward.
Round One Pick No. 17, defensive tackle, Jay Tufele, USC
Jay Tufele (too-fay-lay) is a name several fans probably won’t notice right away. That’s mainly because Tufele decided to opt-out of his junior year at USC due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Tufele is probably one of if not the best defensive tackle in the upcoming draft. It will be a gift if he falls to the Raiders in the late teens.
The 6-foot-5 standout is a mountain of a man and a major disrupter in the middle of the line. He’ll finish his career at USC with 65 career tackles, including 11 for loss, 7.5 sacks a pass defensed plus a deflection, a fumble returned for a touchdown and a blocked field goal. While the overall numbers don’t jump off the page but the film definitely does. Tufele consistently finds himself in the backfield to force quarterbacks out of the pocket or disrupt run plays.
Even at his size, he’s extremely athletic and has that unstoppable motor the Raiders front seven needs. The Raiders might keep using a 4-3 defense, this would mean Tufele would be a perfect fit for the Raiders. After all, football games are won in the trenches of the game. He would give the Raiders a stout run defender and aggressive pass rusher to set the tone for the defensive line.
Round Two Pick No. 48, safety, Jevon Holland, Oregon
Jevon Holland, like Tufele before, opted out of his junior year to prepare for the 2021 draft. Holland is among the top prospects at his position. However, this isn’t saying a whole lot as the safety class is rather weak in this upcoming draft. Keep in mind that Holland is more than just a safety and falls into the “jack of all trades” category.
The 6-foot-1 standout can play in the slot, stack in the box with the linebackers, and even blitz opposing quarterbacks. He also is someone who can set the edge for the run defense and even return punts. His versatility is something that could play very well off of Jonathan Abram to help keep opposing quarterbacks guessing. His overall career stats are impressive as he had 71 tackles, 4.5 for loss, nine interceptions, and 10 pass breakups.
Holland’s nose for the football is something the Raiders are desperately lacking in the secondary right now. Abram has never profiled as the prototypical free-roaming safety and neither Erik Harris nor Jeff Heath have stepped up to seal that job for the future. Holland is what some call a “scheme fit” player, meaning that he’ll only really find himself on an NFL roster on the right scheme. Coincidentally, the formation he may fit the best in is the 4-2-5.
However, even if the Raiders change up defensive schemes Holland can still find a home on the roster as his versatility allows him to play all over the field and hold his own even outside of the safety position. Bringing in someone of Holland’s caliber to pair with Abram should solidify a current crutch on the Raiders roster.
The Raiders need to keep looking for ways to improve their defense
Most perennial playoff contenders have a competent defense. This could be why this Las Vegas team has only seen the playoffs once in the past 18 seasons. At 7-7 and only about a one percent possibility of making the playoffs in 2020, it’s safe to assume the Raiders players will be watching the playoffs from the couch like the rest of us once again.
The offense appears to have found its footing and has solid young talent that it can rely upon for years to come. The defense deserves to have the same be said about them. Bringing Tufele and Holland to a group that already has emerging talent could give the Raiders, and their fans, a defense that could potentially win them championships in years to come.
You May Also Like: Only Nation Podcast: First Look At Raiders QB Marcus Mariota
Top Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images