How’s the Raiders’ secondary looking ahead of training camp?
The secondary has been an area of concern for the Raiders, specifically the cornerbacks. The unit was ranked 12th overall by Pro Football Focus at the end of the 2021 season. To be fair, it was an improvement under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The reason a downswing is expected is that the Raiders let their highest-graded corner, Casey Hayward (13th ranked outside corner per PFF), leave in free agency. Not only was Hayward always on the field, but he also brought leadership and experience to the secondary that the Raiders were lacking. Let’s take a look at some of the remaining players on the roster.
Trayvon Mullen, a second-round pick in 2019, has had injuries hamper expectations.Â The Raiders acquired former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin in a trade that jettisoned Yannick Ngakoue. Ya-Sin is likely a starter but isn’t exactly the alpha or leader the Raiders truly need. Sophomore Nate Hobbs was the highest-graded PFF slot corner, but a litany of offseason legal issues birthed some concerns. Amik Robertson, a fourth-round pick, wasn’t able to beat out Hobbs for the starting position and made it onto the field in sub-packages.
The Raiders also signed free agents Anthony Averett, Chris Jones, Darius Phillips, and Cre’von Leblanc. Those veterans bring some leadership and experience to the unit, specifically Averett.
Should Las Vegas go after free agent Xavier Rhodes?
Xavier Rhodes spent the last two seasons with the Colts after a successful run with his first team, the Minnesota Vikings. In 2020, he was ranked the ninth cornerback by PFF. Rhodes faced Davante Adams twice a year for multiple seasons, which resulted in some epic battles. Sadly, for Rhodes, Davante usually finished on top. Rhodes has not only faced Adams in the past but other receivers in their prime, such as Antonio Brown and Julio Jones.
Rhodes had a down year in 2021 and missed several games due to a calf injury. As a result,Â that led to poor numbers on the field. If Rhodes passes a medical evaluation and accepts a lower one-year deal, the soon-to-be 32-year-old could be an asset. A reunion between Ya-Sin and Rhodes could potentially produce solid results for the Raiders.
Rhodes would provide experience and leadership that would elevate the cornerback room in Las Vegas. Additionally, part of Rhodes’ success in Indy was shared with Ya-Sin. A friendly face could help Ya-Sin become comfortable in the desert and on the field. If the Raiders want another leader to help lead their backfield, they should look to Rhodes before training camp begins.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal