It’s safe to say that progress is crucial if the Las Vegas Raiders hope to compete this season after featuring a secondary that ranked 31st in 2020. The pressure is on for this unit, in particular, safety Johnathan Abram.
Abram struggled mightily in coverage and has continuously disregarded his body throughout his short career. The bruiser did show flashes when rushing the quarterback. He racked up nine pressures, three tackles for a loss, and five QB hurries on 47 blitz attempts. Through the air, it’s a different story. It’s obvious that the young safety needs some more development, although Abram totaled six passes defensed and two interceptions in 13 games.
Should Abram struggle through the 2021 season, the Raiders have made it clear that the margin for error is declining. The team added safety help with fourth-round draft pick Tyree Gillespie, as well as by reacquiring Karl Joseph in free agency. Also, Raiders brass drafted Divine Deablo, a “Kam Chancellor-esque” type of player. Deablo is capable of playing an enforcer role in a Gus Bradley defense.
It’s too soon to give up on Abram…
Despite some rough outings, it’s still too early to give up on the 24-year-old. The 2020 season was the first real NFL playing opportunity for Abram, after a 2019 injury that kept him sidelined for most of his rookie season. However, if Abram hopes to finish a full and healthy season, he needs to be able to incorporate some more discipline into his gung-ho playing style.
The addition of Bradley as the new Las Vegas defensive coordinator should be exactly what Abram needs to become a more efficient safety. In his past tenures, Bradley has been monumental in the development of several star safeties. The list includes Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Johnathan Cyprien, and Derwin James. The Bradley hire came with some perks as well, including the signings of Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward, who had previous connections from Bradley’s time in Jacksonville and San Diego/L.A. With more pass rush and secondary help, Abram’s role should get a bit easier in 2021.
The Raiders will be keeping a close eye on Abram
In the upcoming season, I believe we’ll see growth out of Abram. Nevertheless, there will still be growing pains as Abram adapts to Bradley’s new system. As long as the Raiders see significant progress in Abram’s second full season, his job should be safe. The leash, however, is short, as is the case for almost every player on the roster. Look for Abram to be a force if he can stay disciplined and improve his coverage abilities. His talent has never been an issue.
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