Saying the secondary of the Las Vegas Raiders has much to prove this coming year is an understatement at this point.
If the Raiders are to make the playoffs, they will need to be at least, a top 18 group. The defense on paper appears to be much improved, so the secondary doesn’t need to be spectacular, it just needs to be average.
The secondary last season was only able to haul in seven interceptions with three coming by Jeff Heath. The defense also had three others with interceptions, but two were from the linebackers and one from the defensive end, Carl Nassib. To go further into that stat, five of those ten total picks came in one game. This is discouraging when you realize that the secondary had first and second-round talent in place. Unfortunately, these players seemed lost or out of position which contributed to several of the team’s losses. A key this upcoming season for the secondary is just sticking to position and not overselling themselves.
The Raiders secondary has its work cut out in the AFC West…
One example where the Raiders’ problems can be encapsulated was their matchups versus the Los Angeles Chargers. At one point in the first game, the Chargers were inside the five and threw jump balls that were incomplete, with great play by Isaiah Johnson. Regrettably, in the second matchup, there was no safety help and Keisean Nixon was badly beaten which ended up leading to a goal-line score to win the game in overtime for Los Angeles. This type of inconsistency will have to cease in 2021 for the Raiders.
The Silver and Black were also marred by inconsistencies against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders’ secondary was beaten at times but managed countless breakups in their first matchup. More importantly, they stayed in position and eventually nabbed the interception that sealed the victory. Then, during the second meeting, the Chiefs went downfield in less than a minute and Johnathan Abram went out of position which led to a wide-open Travis Kelce for the game-winning touchdown.
As you can see, if there’s one thing that must improve under Gus Bradley, it will be the unit’s weekly consistency.
Can all the newcomers make a difference?
The Raiders decided they couldn’t turn a blind eye to these inconsistencies. Several additions to the secondary were made via the NFL draft and in free agency as well.
Some free agents that will be heavily relied upon are former Raider, Karl Joseph, as well as, Casey Hayward, and Rasul Douglas. The Raiders will be looking to them for on-field production and as mentors for rookies, Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs.
Through OTAs, it seems the defense is gelling under Bradley though training camp will offer a clearer picture. The defensive line was provided with some good pickups this offseason as well. This will be key because if this revamped unit can get pressure, the secondary will benefit tremendously.
The biggest thing above all else is the secondary needs to improve from their poor showings these past two seasons. Well, if we’re being honest, said showing has been commonplace for the past decade. Regardless, could this group be the one to turn the corner? If the Raiders want to be playing in January, they definitely need to.
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*Top Photo: Associated Press/Isaac Brekken