There are three things to watch for with the Las Vegas Raiders defense today against the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason opener.
We finally made it, folks. After a long six months of speculation, predictions, and outlook; the pads are finally being strapped up. Simply put, Raiders football is back.
Coming off a promising, but underwhelming 2020 season, the Raiders jumpstarted their offseason overhaul. The main focus was fixing the putrid defense. While the offense looks to continue its upward trend, the defense is hoping to improve from their annual bottom-five ranking.
Through a coaching change, millions invested in free agency, and all but one draft pick used on the defense, Jon Gruden will be looking for any sign of life that former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther could not muster.
Speaking of the defense, let’s take a look at three things to keep an eye on in this game versus the Seahawks.
Defensive scheme change
Leaving behind a sub-par roster, newly hired coordinator Gus Bradley will look to fill in the uninspiring void left behind by Guenther. First order of business? Moving away from Guenther’s ‘quantum physics of football’ scheme and into Bradley’s ‘play first, think second’ style of play.
While it is far more complicated than giving their respective scheme’s humorous names, Bradley will be looking to simplify the game for this young defense. He’ll accomplish this by establishing an easier scheme to digest.
Changing from a mainly Cover 2 scheme to Bradley’s Cover 3 will come with learning curves. It might even be harder to adjust for the returning players. This will be something to keep an eye on this preseason as, without some sort of improvement on the defensive side of the ball, we can expect another mediocre record in 2021.
There have been a few curveballs surrounding the 2021 Raiders defense so far. None bigger than Tanner Muse being labeled SAM LB1 and Nick Kwiatkoski finding himself as MLB2 on the first official depth chart of the 2021 offseason. While it’s still early, this depth chart should give us indications on how Bradley plans to use his linebacker corps. It will also indicate how his front seven scheme looks compared to the previous regime.
This does not mean Kwiatkoski is out of a job, but it will certainly be something to watch. Does Bradley prefer a smaller/faster group, or will Kwiatkoski be able to find a role on a defense that seems to be changing around him? By all accounts, Kwiatkoski should still find himself on the field more often than not. However, keep an eye on the personnel and desired play style of the linebackers during the first preseason game.
Between emerging star Nicholas Morrow, bounce-back hopeful Cory Littleton, Kwiatoski, and Muse; this defensive staff will have plenty to sort out throughout the preseason.
What’s a preseason without getting a look at some of the new guys in town? As mentioned earlier, the Raiders used all but one of their 2021 draft selections on defensive players. As such, they’ll be expected to step up on a team vying for quality talent and depth. There are, however, a few young guns who could see time early and be thrust into roles in which they’ll need to deliver for the sake of defensive success. Second-round safety Trevon Moehrig and third-round defensive end Malcolm Koonce are two rookies who will have a lot on their plate this preseason as they solidify their spot on this defense.
Will Bradley’s scheme put players in a better position? How will the rookies look going against a live offense? How soon can we expect this defense to form an identity? Only time will tell… and Week 1 of the preseason is where talk becomes cheap, and results are the only metric.
*Top Photo: Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal