Raiders Hire Former Defensive Coordinator to Coaching Staff

josh mcdaniels patrick graham

Getty Josh McDaniels & Patrick Graham of the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Las Vegas Raiders decided against making sweeping changes to the coaching staff this offseason but have made some additions. The team has already added Scott Turner as their pass game coordinator and Danny Amendola as a coaching assistant/returners. Those weren’t the last moves the team made.

According to the Raiders’ official website, Keith Heyward has been hired as a defensive quality control coach. Heyward has some ties to Las Vegas as he was most recently the defensive coordinator for the University of Las Vegas Nevada Rebels. The 43-year-old was a player in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League but never was able to break through into the NFL.

He joined the coaching ranks in 2005 as a graduate assistant for Oregon State. He has bounced around many schools since. Notably, Heyward coached the likes of Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters and Washington, Adoree’ Jackson at USC and Jaire Alexander at Louisville. He’s got a great track record of coaching defensive backs so the Raiders will likely have him focus on that group. He’s an interesting coach to watch this year as this will be his first time being involved in the NFL.

Raiders Coaching Staff Has a Lot of Work to Do

The Raiders moved on from expensive offensive players like Derek Carr and Darren Waller this offseason. The thought was that the team would use that extra money to bolster the defense. Free agency has passed and the most notable move the team made on defense was signing safety Marcus Epps to a $12 million contract. Not exactly the spending spree that many expected.

In fact, many would argue that the Raiders’ defensive roster looks worse right now than it did last season. They had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year so that’s quite concerning. The team will rely heavily on this year’s draft class to improve the defense. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his staff. The Raiders do have some good players to build around like defensive end Maxx Crosby and cornerback Nate Hobbs but there’s not much else. General manager Dave Ziegler needs to find Graham at least three starter-level players in the draft this year or things could get ugly.

Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez?

If the Raiders don’t draft a quarterback in the first round, the speculation is that they will take one of the top cornerbacks. The consensus is that Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez are the best top prospects in the draft. There’s a good chance the Raiders have both of them available to them. So which one should they choose?

Gonzalez is more athletically appealing while Witherspoon has the physicality a team would want. ESPN’s Todd McShay thinks it’s close but he’d lean Gonzalez if he was making the pick.

“He’s a ball hawk, he’s really good in coverage … he’s just so physical,” McShay said of Witherspoon. “The NFL, with so much of the screen game and teams being spread out, you’ve got to be able to tackle at the cornerback position. Where that’s Witherspoon’s strength, that’s the area that Gonzalez has got to improve upon. He is not a great tackler, he’s not great in run support … but he’s 6-1, almost 200 pounds…

“Witherspoon is more complete, but if you’re looking for the best cover corner to just take away your No. 1 receiver, Gonzalez is going to be your guy.”

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