WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive

 

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WWJD –  Time To Get Defensive

 

WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive
Photo courtesy of ABC7 San Francisco

The play of the Raiders defense the past few years has been downright offensive. From the lack of a pass rush to the inability to create turnovers to the missed tackles, it’s been a pathetic display every week. In 2019 Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden made a conscious effort to better that side of the ball. They made improvements with first-round picks, Clelin Ferrell, Jonathan Abram, and second-round pick Trayvon Mullen.  Fourth-round picks Maxx Crosby, Isaiah Johnson, and undrafted rookie free agent Keisean Nixon showed themselves to be some valuable pieces. They are the foundation, but more bricks are needed to complete that side of the house.

To take the next step to become a consistent playoff-contending team, the Las Vegas Raiders need to add immediate impact pieces to their defensive front in 2020.

 

The Raiders need at least two linebackers, one inside and one outside, that can get sideline to sideline, cover, and play “nasty.” They also need another safety who can play alongside and compliment Abram in the backend. I believe they also need another defensive tackle, and just like every other team trying to get better, more quality depth across the board.

 

WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

Upfront, the Raiders, got outstanding production from the rookie tandem of Ferrell and Crosby, who came in to start when Arden Key went down with an injury. In 2020 with Ferrell, Crosby, Key, Benson Mayowa, and Dion Jordan returning, the Raiders pass rush could be two-deep at defensive end.

In the middle of the defensive line, Maurice Hurst once again started and had a strong sophomore season coming on the heels of a solid rookie year. Next to him, there is a lot to be desired. Jonathan Hankins, Olsen Pierre, and PJ Hall are solid but not spectacular players who are merely rotational guys at this point in their careers. The lack of quality depth has hurt the Raiders, and they need to add another player this offseason to help with that issue.

At linebacker, the Raiders have two huge holes to fill, in the middle and at the “WILL” positions. Tahir Whitehead looked much more comfortable in year 2 of Paul Guenther’s system playing the “SAM” and subbing in at the “MIKE” after the NFL suspended Vontez Burfict for the remainder of the season. The rest of the group is best suited for being quality backups. Will Compton, Nicholas Morrow, Ukeme Eligwe, and Kyle Wilber round out the linebacking core, and they won’t make any offensive coordinators lose any sleep.

 

The secondary, on the other hand, is full of promise.

 

WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

With Abram, Mullen, Nixon, and Johnson to go along with veteran Lamarcus Joyner, the Raiders have a nice core to build around. Mullen and Nixon in-particular showed great promise as rookies and could form a nice tandem going forward. Johnson, who is raw, flashed potential but was passed up on the depth chart by Nixon by season’s end. Daryl Worley, Nevin Lawson, and the oft-injured Nick Nelson complete the rest of the cornerback group.

Abram was everything the Raiders wanted, except it was only for a game. Abram had to have season-ending shoulder surgery after Week 1, which ended his season. Karl Joseph’s play next to Abram was starting to get to what the Raiders expected it to be when they drafted him in the first round, but once Abram was lost for the season, Joseph’s play was once again up and down. Erik Harris filled in admirably and flashing some excellent tackling ability and a multiple interception game, but was often asked to do too much. Curtis Riley was not the answer, and it was mind-numbing how often he was on the field. He was the Reggie Nelson of the past two seasons and joined Dallin Leavitt as guys who fill out the roster.

 

Now WWJD?

 

WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive
Photo Credit: shakinthesouthland.com

I’ll start in reverse with the NFL Draft. The Raiders may have the opportunity to draft the best linebacker in the draft at pick #12 in Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons. He would be the exact type of player that Gruden and Guenther need in the middle of the field for the defense.

The 6’3/230 pound linebacker is a passionate playmaker who loves football and plays with that nasty streak. Simmons can cover, get sideline to sideline, and is a sure tackler. He is a three-down linebacker who wouldn’t have to come off the field and would be a starter and the team’s best linebacker on Day 1.

At pick #19, I have the Raiders taking or trading for a wide receiver to give Gruden another much-needed weapon for his quarterback to go along with Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow.

The Raiders do not have a second-round pick but do have three 3rd round picks. They could package one of them, and future pick to move into round 2, or trade back from pick #19 to later in round 1 and add a second-round pick. But I don’t like to speculate on draft day trades so I won’t do any here.

So with their first 3rd round pick, I have the Raiders selecting another linebacker, LSU’s Jacob Phillips. The 6’3/233 linebacker can also play inside or outside like Simmons and can flat fly and make plays. Phillips would be another linebacker that wouldn’t have to leave the field and would give Guenther options when blitzing or playing coverage.

University of Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike, Auburn’s Tyrone Truesdell, and Clemson’s Xavier Kelly all would be guys in round 3 and beyond that could be an ideal fit for Guenther’s system. I think the Raiders need to invest AT LEAST two draft picks on their defensive tackle position and another two early picks in their linebacker positions.

 

WWJD #6 - Part 3 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Time To Get Defensive
Photo Credit: profootballtalk.com

I also expect the Raiders to address the defensive tackle position in free agency. The Kansas City Chiefs Chris Jones would be an ideal fit, but I believe they will use the “Franchise Tag” on him if they don’t get a deal done with him first. A name to watch is the Dallas Cowboys Malliek Collins, who quietly had an excellent 2019 season. While he may not be a name the average fan knows, he earned himself a nice payday.

 

 

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Joe Arrigo

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