After having a surprisingly good year, the Las Vegas Raiders did a lot this offseason to bolster a number of areas on the roster, especially on defense. While the defensive line and linebacker corps have a lot of promising pieces, there is still some concern in the secondary. The team has a lot of high draft capital invested in the unit but the group is very young.
Damon Arnette, Trayvon Mullen and Johnathan Abram could be Week 1 starters. The three have a combined 11 NFL starts, with Mullen accounting for 10 of them. The future could be very bright for the young group but not even General Manager Mike Mayock can hide the fact that he has anxiety about the secondary.
“I am most anxious to see the secondary. … We’ve got some good young talent and I am anxious to see who competes,” Mayock said, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “It’s awesome to have [Prince] Amukamara because he brings a veteran presence, but we have a bunch of really young corners and safeties that we think have some talent.”
The Raiders did go after some big-name cornerbacks this offseason but couldn’t seal the deal with any of them. It might end up being a good thing for the team but there will be growing pains at some points. There are some ridiculously talented wide receivers in the AFC West. It won’t take long to tell if this group of defensive backs can play or not.
Mayock Talks Damarious Randall
Damarious Randall may not have been the most sought after defensive back in free agency, but he’s a solid player who brings versatility to the Raider defense.
“I had him as the No. 1 free safety coming out of college and I think he has movement skills and he’s been a corner and a safety, so you gotta like the fact that he can run,” Mayock said. “I think he is invested in a prove-it type year and we’re in a really good situation because we really like Erik Harris.
“I thought he had a solid year last year, too.”
There’s a really good shot that Randall starts next to Abram while Harris serves as a backup. Randall is solid at creating turnovers which could be very helpful for a defensive unit that ranked 31st in takeaways last season.
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Don’t Forget About Jeff Heath
Randall and Abram appear to be the favorites to start at both safety spots but it would be unwise to sleep on Jeff Heath. He was a starter for a solid Dallas Cowboys team and bring some more consistency to the position.
“Heath has started a lot of games in the NFL, but he comes from a different angle, though,” Mayock said. “While Damarious was a first-round pick, Jeff came from a small school [Saginaw Valley State] and wasn’t drafted. He has worked for everything he’s got.
“He is an accomplished special-teams player and he can get you lined up on the back end. He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s played both free and strong safety. We expect him to come in and compete.”
Things are pointing in the right direction for the Raiders and if their secondary performs better than anybody expects, they could be a serious dark horse in 2020.