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PFF Ranks Raiders’ Linbackers, Secondary as One of NFL’s Worst Heading Into 2023 Season

If the Las Vegas Raiders need any motivation on defense, Pro Football Focus provided that for the linebacker and secondary corps heading into the 2023 NFL season.

PFF recently ranked every team’s linebacker and secondary group, and the media outlet wasn’t too kind to the Silver and Black. The units were at the bottom of the list in both rankings, as two were in the No. 30 slot. 

The Raiders’ linebacker group ranked third worst by PFF

The Vegas linebacker corps is heading into the 2023 NFL season with a PFF ranking of No. 30, reflecting the challenges they face compared to other teams. Several factors contribute to this low ranking, including finishing 2022 with the third-lowest-graded linebacking corps. 

One of the main issues plaguing the Raiders’ linebacker unit is the need for a true standout player. Vegas will not have a single linebacker who played at least 600 snaps last season.

While some solid contributors are on the roster, they have yet to consistently demonstrate the ability to dominate games or make game-changing plays. This lack of a playmaker in the position hampers the overall effectiveness of the group.

PFF notes that Denzel Perryman was the highest-graded player in the unit that dealt with injuries and issues in coverage in the 2022 season. Divine Deablo and ex-Pittsburgh Steeler Robert Spillane will be the likely starters for Vegas next season. 

However, PFF isn’t too high on the two linebackers, as Deablo ended last season with a 50.7 coverage grade. Additionally, he didn’t force a single incompletion. Meanwhile, Spillane’s 39.5 mark was bottom-10 at the position.

Vegas’ secondary group was ranked third worst by PFF…

The Raiders’ secondary matches their linebacker corps, as PFF ranked the unit at No. 30. This low ranking highlights significant areas of concern and raises questions about the team’s ability to defend against the pass effectively.

Last season, Vegas only had six interceptions as a team, which was tied for worst in the NFL alongside the New York Giants. Furthermore, the Raiders also finished at the bottom in passes defended with 55. Only the Chicago Bears (50) had fewer passes defended than the Silver and Black last season. 

The Raiders brought in Duke Shelley on a one-year contract this offseason, which is a needed addition to the secondary, considering no other returning player earned a grade above 61.3 in coverage last year.

Furthermore, Vegas added safety Marcus Epps in free agency to improve the unit and used the 2023 NFL Draft to select cornerback Jakorian Bennett and safety Christopher Smith on Day 3. 

Rankings are just that, rankings…

Fortunately, rankings are not set in stone, and teams can significantly improve once the season starts. The Raiders can use this ranking as motivation and work diligently to address their deficiencies. 

The Raiders can certainly climb PFF’s rankings this upcoming season. They’d surprise several of their critics if that were the case, that’s for sure. In order to become a more formidable secondary unit, they’ll need effective coaching, player development, and strategic adjustments. All of which will be under heavy scrutiny this year.

*Top Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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