Las Vegas Raiders - Aaaron Rodgers, Dalvin Cook, Davante Adams, ESPN

Marcus Epps Speaks On Secondary’s Mindset In ’23, Tyree Wilson to Breakout?

The Las Vegas Raiders defense will look to improve heading into the 2023 season, specifically in the secondary. The Silver and Black beefed up that area in their defense with players like Marcus Epps.

With Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes in their division, the Raiders likely knew that strengthening their defense was necessary if they hoped to contain those three quarterbacks.  

Epps spoke about the mindset the defense has to ensure that the quarterback in the AFC West and their entire schedule have a challenging time putting up points. 

Meanwhile, the pass rush is another aspect of the Raiders’ defense that hopes to improve. While Vegas has Maxx Crosby, he needs help, and SI’s Matt Verderame believes that rookie Tyree Wilson can provide that.

Marcus Epps: The Raiders’ defense will play with an underdog mentality

The Raiders’ secondary was tied for dead last in interceptions (6), bottom four in passing yards allowed with 4,129, and bottom three in completion percentage (67.6). As a result, the team needed to fix their secondary. 

Vegas signed Epps to a two-year contract worth $12 million, and the 27-year-old recently chatted with the Raiders’ digital outlets to reveal the mentality that the defense, especially those in the secondary, has heading into a new season.

“I’ve seen the improvement day in and day out of guys really making an effort to learn the defense, to get more comfortable with the different coverages that we’re running,” Epps said. “So I think that’s where it starts, right, of just knowing how you can play different coverages and whatnot. 

“And then from there, it’s just a mindset of bringing that attitude each and every day in practice of I’m going to go get the ball. So once you start doing that, it just becomes [a] habit, and good things start happening in the game.”

Epps is also coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was part of a defense that reached Super Bowl LVII but fell 38–35 to the Kansas City Chiefs. So the Raiders are bringing in a player that knows what a top-level defensive unit looks like and likely hopes Vegas can replicate that this season. 

Aside from Epps, Vegas used free agency to sign various secondary players like Jaquan Johnson and David Long Jr. Furthermore, the team also invested a couple of draft picks in improving the pass defense, with Jakorian Bennett at No. 104 and Christopher Smith II at No. 170 overall. 

Is Tyree Wilson a breakout candidate?

The Raiders’ secondary isn’t the only part of the defense that must improve in 2023 if the team hopes to make the playoffs. Aside from Maxx Crosby, Vegas struggled in the pass-rushing department with only 27 sacks last season.

As a result, the Silver and Black invested the No. 7 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft in Tyree Wilson—the 23-year-old registered back-to-back seven-sack seasons in his junior and senior year at Texas Tech. 

Crosby will get all the attention from the opposing team, which might allow Wilson to take advantage of his matches. It can also explain why Verderame sees the edge rusher is a breakout candidate for the Raiders.

“If Wilson can be a force early on, he’ll form a dynamic tandem with Maxx Crosby,” Verderame wrote. “With a subpar defensive backfield playing behind the front four, the Raiders desperately need Crosby and Wilson to win, and win quickly.”

Chandler Jones only had 4.5 sacks last season and was recently ranked as having one of the worst contracts in the NFL. If Wilson does have a promising rookie season, it will be a welcomed site from Vegas.

*Top Photo: AP Photo/AJ Mast

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