With the Las Vegas Raiders heading into a bye week, let’s look at who has made the biggest strides so far, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. With the improvements that the defense has made this year, there is no shortage of candidates.
It seems like we haven’t heard the hard-hitting safety’s name in a while. That is a good thing. The most noticeable thing with Abram this year is that he isn’t having many of the classic mistakes we are used to seeing. Big whiffs, bad penalties, and being caught out of position are no longer common occurrences for the former Mississippi State Bulldog. He now looks like a typical good box safety. He still might not look like a former first-round pick, but the strides he has made are noteworthy.
‘The Condor‘ is back to his rookie form. Every play, Crosby is relentlessly hunting the ball. The difference this year is that he’s getting to the quarterback as he did in his first season. At thisÂ rate, Crosby is on pace for a career-high in sacks. It’s a subtle improvement, sure. However, when the bar is already high, that’s how it is. Still, it is worth mentioning.
The Raiders finally seem to be getting theÂ Rams editionÂ of Cory Littleton. He is back to being a tackling machine. Already, he is closing in on hisÂ tackle totalÂ from last season. He seems to be thriving in this new role in Gus Bradley’s defense. Littleton is seemingly playing faster this year. His movement appears more purposeful. The improvement from last year is clear as day.
And speaking of tackling machines…
Most Improved: Denzel Perryman
A little odd considering thatÂ PerrymanÂ was not even on the team last year; nevertheless, his improvement as a player is so drastic that putting anyone else here would be a farce. Plus, being a Charger for the past six years has allowed Raider Nation plenty of opportunities to see his play.Â
In all honesty, nobody ever feared him. Respected? Sure. That is about it, until this year. I do not understand what happened, but he is on another level this season. It is odd too. TheÂ Gus Bradley effectÂ wouldn’t apply to Perryman since he previously played for him in Los Angeles.
It might have to do with this current crop of Raiders defensive linemen. They are arguably eight to ten guys deep with seriousÂ problem-causersÂ up front. That would explain why both Perryman and Littleton are having great seasons. Offensive linemen being occupied free up the linebackers. Could it be that simple?
Regardless of what it is, theÂ numbersÂ speak for themselves. By season’s end, it could be a career-best for Perryman; he isÂ leadingÂ the entire league in both combined and solo tackles. He’ll exceed his standards this year. He could even become a real threat to win “Defensive Player of the Year.” The Raiders linebacker has come a long way since beingÂ tradedÂ for what was little more than a bag of chips two months ago.
*Top Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal