Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley made his debut for the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football and left a lasting impact. Most of it was good; actually, nearly all of it was good. However, injuries are testing the depth of the defense already.
A moment of silence for Gerald McCoy
Father Time comes for all professional athletes, and when it’s your time to go, you are the last to know. McCoy, who had a solid career in Tampa Bay, tore his quadriceps with the Dallas Cowboys in the preseason of 2019 and spent the next two seasons unable to do what he loved. After finally getting his leg healed and back on the field, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. McCoy must feel devastated; it was just as he was gaining momentum too.
Just when the Raiders signed a defensive end capable of screaming off the edge like a banshee, he has a hamstring issue. Yannick Ngakoue is practicing and preparing to play, but a tight hamstring may find him on the sidelines in the Steel City. Muscle issues are common for twitchy athletes, and Ngakoue is the latest to succumb. Is it possible for him to play, yes? Is it likely, probably not? The season is 17 games long, and the Raiders have only played one. A bad hamstring injury can take upwards of two-three weeks to properly heal. With so much time left in the regular season, it would behoove the Raiders to sit him and let him heal up so he can be good to go down the stretch.
Third Down Defense
The Las Vegas Raiders defense held a Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens offense to converting a mere 25% of third down plays. Meaning on 12 third down plays, the Ravens converted only three of them into first downs. An astonishing improvement right out of the 2021 gates. The third-down is the most important down in football. Others may argue about setting the tone on first down. Nonetheless, winning on third down gets the defense off the field.
The Raiders forced four Ravens fumbles, recovering two of them for the offense. Turnovers have been missing from the Raiders defense for a long time. Almost like it was never emphasized by the previous coordinators. Attacking the football is something you can practice and the only way to force turnovers, whether high-pointing a pass or peanut-punching the rock. In every stop of his illustrious career, Bradley has taught, coached, and preached turnovers. Bradley has been rewarded for his efforts in bunches.
Johnathan Abram is here to stay…
Put some ‘Respek‘ on Abram’s name, and he won’t say it anymore. Abram didn’t quit despite constant harassment and criticism for ranking as the worst safety in the NFL. Instead, he embraced the teachings and coaching of defensive backs coach Ron Milus. Abram has taken his kamikaze-style of defending and has refined and renewed it. He’s made the necessary adjustments to his game by being disciplined with angles of approach to the ball carrier and a concentrated effort to wrap up on tackles.
Abram wasn’t tested deep, though occasionally, he was called on to bail out into a deep half responsibility. Bradley and Milus moved him all over the field, and he made plays all over. One of the most impressive plays was a tackle on special teams. In that play, he ran downfield, hit the ball carrier, and then attempted to rip the ball out of his hands and nearly succeeded. He didn’t miss many tackles, if any, and was a breath of fresh air all game long.
Abram’s skillset can be featured heavily in this defense. Abram had one of the game’s most influential plays when he prevented an overtime completion for a first down to Mark Andrews. What made the play so incredible was that Andrews had already caught the ball. However, in his process to secure it, Abram peanut-punched it straight out of his hands. Should Abram display consistency all season, he can morph into the player the Raiders thought they were getting when they drafted him.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports