It’s been a long time since the Las Vegas Raiders fielded a great defense. The franchise hasn’t always been known for defensive prowess but they have had some of the greatest defenders in NFL history don the silver and black. Even when the team has had bad defenses, they’ve had one or two elite players to pick up the slack.
That hasn’t been the case over the last few years. Khalil Mack was supposed to be the future of the Raiders’ defense but he was traded before Jon Gruden got a chance to coach him. The team is desperate to have a better defense. Having a bad defense held the team back from getting to the playoffs last season. Maxx Crosby has a chance to be a difference-maker for the Raiders for a long time. He sent a stern message to the defense while talking about the team’s offseason.
“They’re putting a lot on us mentally so we can learn on the fly and get everything in, because on game day, you’re not calling every single call, but you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to know everything and be prepared,” Crosby said on the Raiders’ Upon Further Review show. “So [defensive coordinator Gus] Bradley does a great job. Me personally, I know once I mess up, I feel like that’s how I learn. Like, ‘Oh I messed up on that last time, I know that I need to do.’ And everybody’s different. So it’s been a great process. Everybody’s learning, everybody’s bought in. At the end of the day, our defense has got to get a lot better and we’re just working. That’s what we’re doing every single day and it’s been awesome.”
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No More Excuses for Raiders Defense
Throughout the last few years, the Raiders have accumulated their fair share of defensive talent. Just over the last three drafts, the team has used five first or second-round picks on defenders, including a top-five pick. They have talent to work with, they just haven’t utilized it.
Paul Guenther was fired during last season and Gus Bradley is now set to take over at defensive coordinator. He’s got a strong track record and should at least be an upgrade over Guenther. The Raiders also signed proven playmakers like Yannick Ngakoue and Casey Hayward this offseason. There’s no reason the defense can’t at least be average, which might be all the team needs to get to the playoffs if the offense is still good.
Who Will Step up for Raiders Defense This Season?
The Raiders have several young defenders who should be feeling the heat heading into this season. Johnathan Abram is perhaps on the hottest seat. The team drafted three safeties in this year’s draft. Though Abram is a former first-round pick, his reckless play won’t be accepted going further.
Bradley has had great success with safeties over his career and has plans to utilize Abram’s talents more than Guenther did. In a perfect world, the young defensive back won’t be in coverage very often. He’ll be playing in the box and near the line of scrimmage for the most part. This could be the key to unlocking his potential. He has the talent and the work ethic to be elite. If Bradley can figure out how to put him in the right positions to succeed, Abram could be the Raiders’ breakout star of 2021.