Damon Arnette was a questionable pick for the Las Vegas Raiders in round one of the 2020 NFL draft to say the least. Between struggling with injuries, Covid-19 and producing when on the field, it appears Arnette has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.
When a player’s selected in the first round, it’s a belief and hope, he’ll be a solid starter for potentially the next 10-plus years. This isn’t always the case, clearly, but when a player’s riding the bench by Year 2, that’s an issue. This the scenario that Arnette could potentially find himself in for the 2021 season, as indicated by Pro Football Focus’s Doug Kyed. In his defense, Arnette had a rough rookie year suffering from things outside of his control.
Raiders 2020 first-round pick Damon Arnette has been running with the second-team in training camp. I'm told it's a combination of off-field struggles and a lack of fit in the system.
Raiders are in win-now mode and believe their other DBs are better.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) July 31, 2021
Limited availability for the Raiders
Arnette struggled to stay on the field all throughout last season. During the preseason, Arnette broke his thumb. This led to him missing five games early on. In Week’s 11 and 12, the Ohio State product only played in eight and two snaps, respectively. Both times he exited early for concussion-related issues. This in turn resulted in him missing both Week 13 and 14. Outside of quarterback, the best place for a rookie to learn and gain experience is on the field. However, while he was on the field, Arnette never really found his footing.
Lack of success
The former first-round selection finished with a stat line that no one would be too inclined to write home about. 25 tackles, one for loss, and two passes defensed aren’t exactly numbers that jump out at you. On top of that, Arnette surrendered completions on just over 78 percent of the times his assigned man or zone was targeted. Surprisingly though, according to Pro Football Reference, Arnette was not directly responsible for a single touchdown surrendered.
While the missed time certainly played a factor, the 25-year-old never looked comfortable while on the field. This could have been a result of bad coaching, bad scheming or possibly Arnette struggling to learn his role.
Is Arnette struggling to pick up the Raiders’ playbook?
In Kyed’s Tweet, he mentions his sources say that Arnette falling out of favor is a combination of both his lack of fit in the system but also “off-field struggles.” That terminology is often reserved for players with legal issues or other scandals away from football. Arnette doesn’t really fall into either category as he had a relatively quiet offseason. Therefore, by reasonable deduction, it’s safe to assume that the Dallas, Texas native doesn’t fully understand the playbook.
This would no doubt just further drive down his stock as it severely limits the coaching staffs’ options with him. While Kyed could be referencing something else entirely, without more information, we’re left to merely speculate.
Offseason additions could leave Arnette as odd man out…
The Raiders clearly went into the offseason with the plan to upgrade the whole secondary. They drafted safeties Trevon Moehrig, Tyree Gillespie, Divine Deablo and cornerback, Nate Hobbs. They also signed cornerbacks, Casey Hayward, and Rasul Douglas, while bringing back safety Karl Joseph and cornerback Nevin Lawson.
Hayward spent the last four seasons playing under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The former Los Angles Charger’s proven success and history with Bradley gives him an immediate edge over Arnette. This appears to have already come to fruition as it was reported by Vic Tafur that Hayward had taken all the first-team. Tashan Reed of The Athletic also noted that Arnette has been a backup so far in camp. This does not bode well for Arnette’s starting future.
Vet taking all the first-team snaps thus far … https://t.co/qLVJfqA5Uk
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) July 29, 2021
Questioned since Day 1…
Many people questioned Clelin Ferrell’s selection at number four overall in 2019. Some defended the selection as there was some college success to point out. However, taking Arnette at 19 overall in 2020 left practically everyone puzzled. While at Ohio State, Arnette only managed to record five interceptions, one being for a touchdown. On top of the lack of college success, he was 24 years of age at the time of his selection.
A year of learning behind Hayward and out of the spotlight might do Arnette some good in the long run. Nevertheless, this isn’t a good look for someone who was drafted in the top 20 just a year ago. There is a possibility that Arnette puts it all together and finds success down the road. At the moment, however, it doesn’t appear the coaching staff is willing to take that gamble on what is a crucial 2021 season.
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*Top Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images