The Las Vegas Raiders hired Patrick Graham during the offseason, giving them a fresh face on defense. While it was a wonderful development for the club, it is crucial to recall the former coordinator who was writing up the plays this past season, Gus Bradley. He was famous for his Cover-3 defense, which focused primarily on the secondary. Several players, such as Nate Hobbs and Trevon Moehrig, blossomed under Bradley in 2021.
There are a lot of positives and disadvantages during the course of Bradley’s short tenure with the Raiders. So, let’s take a brief dive into his lone campaign in Vegas.
Highlighting the positives for the former Raiders coach
When his defense was implemented in the early stages of the season, the main purpose was to focus on the pass and to place less pressure on the opposition’s quarterback. Casey Hayward, Brandon Facyson, and Hobbs led the secondary, which all mostly held their own against some of the top offenses. Despite the lack of emphasis on the blitz in its absence, there were six interceptions and 74 total pass deflections for the defense. While that may not sound game-changing, it was an improvement over their previous approach under Paul Guenther. I’d like to highlight a couple games where the no-blitz defense actually worked.
Really love the attention to detail in Gus Bradley's scheme. Watch the Nickel (curl/flat player) hold the curl window and force a checkdown. Great defenses make QBs take the shortest-widest throw. pic.twitter.com/5mYAtnepId
— BD Williams (@BDWilliams18) April 12, 2021
The defense’s lack of attention to pass pressure still resulted in three interceptions during a Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos. Teddy Bridgewater seemed baffled and lost against the all-powerful Cover-3 defense.
Another game in which that plan worked nearly flawlessly was a game later in the season against the Indianapolis Colts. While the secondary did not have an interception fest, it did make things difficult for Carson Wentz, limiting him to only 138 passing yards.
Another significant plus for this defense was the presence of Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. This combo produced tremendous issues for quarterbacks, resulting in countless pressures, sacks, and fumbles. These two made the most of Bradley’s scheme and generated more than enough pressure on their own, especially Crosby, who had a monster season.
A blitz would’ve been nice, no?
Due to a lack of blitzing this season, the Raiders struggled in some categories. Most notably, they were ranked in the 20s for touchdowns allowed via both the pass and the run. This can certainly be attributed to a lack of pressure applied to the quarterback. In fact, the Raiders allowed 29 touchdowns through the air in 2021. Graham’s defense will address this deficiency.
Yo @Raiders. The prevent defense only does one thingâ€¦ Prevents you from winning.
— Nevada Born and Raised (@Droll612) January 2, 2022
There was one unforgettable play call in which Bradley called “Prevent Defense.” This happened during a nail-biting game against the Chargers on 4th and 21st. With less than four minutes left in the game and a chance to ice it, Justin Herbert beat the scheme and scored the touchdown, cutting the deficit in half. Teams simply exploited the flaws in the defense, and while his coaching did result in a postseason appearance, this defense should have done so much better.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports