The Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive backfield is poised to look quite different in 2020. They drafted cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson and will also be getting safety Johnathan Abram back after he missed most of 2019 with an injury. They also just recently announced the signing of veteran cornerback Prince Amukamara and cut former fourth-round pick Nick Nelson in the process.
Nelson has had an uneven career to this point. He was thrust into a starting role for a brief time during his rookie season and played how you would expect an untested rookie to play. He had a horrific preseason last year and ended up getting cut after training camp. He was able to get a spot on the practice squad and was eventually promoted to the active roster towards the end of the year. With the influx of new cornerback talent, Nelson was the most logical player to cut.
Raiders Defensive Backfield Should Be Better in 2020
With the signing of Amukamara, the Raiders now have a solid veteran who can start if first-round pick Damon Arnette isn’t ready yet. A combination of Amukamara and Trayvon Mullen is more promising than the Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley duo that started last season.
Cornerback is still the team’s biggest concern due to the youth at the position. It was smart for them to go after a veteran like Amukamara. In a perfect world, he won’t even start because Arnette proves himself. Between Amukamara, LaMarcus Joyner and Nevin Lawson, the Raiders now have a good mix of youth and experience. It remains to be seen just how good the group will be, but there should be a decent amount of excitement surrounding the young guys.
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Gruden Talks Defensive Improvements
The Raiders’ defense hasn’t been good over the last two years. They’ve shown flashes of potential from time to time, but they’ve just had too many holes. This year, the team decided to spend big in free agency to fill some holes and invested a third first-round pick in a defender over the last two seasons. Head coach Jon Gruden told Jerry McDonald of The Mercury News that he expects the unit to take a leap this year:
We like what we did. We didn’t get a chance to fly guys in and get physicals and meet people and recruit much, but we were organized. We got a lot of the guys we targeted. We went in to the draft and we felt like we added seven guys in the draft that can play. We just added another player yesterday, Prince Amukamara, that we’re excited about. We think we got better from Year 1 to Year 2 and we think we’re in a position to show some improvement in Year 3 also.
In 2019, the team showed that they can field a very good offense. While the offense wasn’t always perfect, they were certainly hampered by a bad defense. There’s still room for improvement, but the Raiders’ defense should be much better in 2020. The team has invested too much into that side of the ball for the defense to keep struggling.