Better, worse or the same? How the Raiders’ defense has changed – NFL Nation

HENDERSON, Nev. – Three pictures of Las Vegas Raiders defense collapses late to burn into your cerebral cortex:

Yes, the defense was the problem last season, the difference, many say, between the 8-8 finish that Las Vegas had and an 11-5 playoff spot.

Enter Gus Bradley, architect of the Legion of Boom Defense in Seattle. With the right pieces in place, the Raiders’ new defense coordinator can place a unit that more than interferes with conflicting offenses. And five of the Raiders’ seven moves were on the defensive side of the ball. As Bradley said, with such a young and impressive cast, it is a “race to maturity” for his defense.

So did the defense get better this offseason, worse or stayed the same? Time will eventually show, but the defense, which ranked No. 25 overall last year and had only 15 takeaways, 30th in the NFL with 32 teams was not always terrible. It had late stops in Carolina, in the Los Angeles Chargers and in Denver to close out victories. Otherwise, the Raiders would be finished 5-11, right?

Defensive line

Additions: Yannick Ngakoue (Baltimore Ravens), Malcolm Koonce (draw selection of third round), Solomon Thomas (San Francisco 49ers), Matt Dickerson (Tennessee Titans), Quinton Jefferson (Buffalo Bills), Darius Philo (did not play in 2020), Darius Stills (beginner free agent)

Loss: Maurice Hurst (49ers), Arden Key (49ers), Maliek Collins (Houston Texans), Vic Beasley (unsigned), Thanks McKinley (Cleveland Browns), Chris Smith (unsigned), David Irving (unsigned)

Return: Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Hankins, Carl Nassib, Kendal Vickers, Niles Scott, Gerri Green

Better, worse or the same? Better

Crosby (17 career sacks) and Ferrell (6.5 career sacks) remain the third-year plots on the edge and will only benefit from the arrival of a bonafide sack master and revenue creator in Ngakoue. The question then is, if passersby snaps take Ngakoue?

Expect a reinforced Ferrell to move in on these downturns. The interior of the line has meanwhile been renewed, and the arrivals of Thomas, Dickerson, Jefferson and Philon will provide a crowded – albeit entertaining – DT room in training camp.

Linebackers

Additions: Divine Deablo (draw selection of third round), Max Richardson (rookie free agent), Asmar Bilal (Chargers), Darron Lee (Bills)

Loss: Kyle Wilber (unsigned), Raekwon McMillan (unsigned)

Return: Nick Kwiatkoski, Cory Littleton, Nicholas Morrow, Javin White, Tanner Muse, James Onwualu,

Better, worse or the same? Same

It can not get worse, can it? So any move here is an improvement, especially if Bradley can get Littleton to go in the right direction. But let’s stay with “same” here for now, as the only real addition was Deablo, which not only makes movement from safety, but was beaten up enough to miss most OTAs and minicamps (he also had yet not signed his rookie contract). Also keep an eye on Bilal as he knows Bradley’s plan.

But again, it all comes back to Kwiatkoski in the middle, and Littleton found his old form as a sideline-to-sideline cover LB as if he were with the Aries, where he led the team in tackles in 2018 and 2019 with five interceptions. In a career-low 14 games last year, Littleton was shut out for INTs, sacks and forced fumbles. Morrow was the Raiders’ best linebacker last year and no insult to him, but that needs to change for this unit to improve.

Cornerbacks

Additions: Casey Hayward Jr.. (Chargers), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Atlanta Falcons), Rasul Douglas (Carolina Panthers), Nate Hobbs (draft fifth round) Shaun Crawford (rookie free agent), De’Vante Bausby (Denver Broncos)

Loss: Daryl Worley (unsigned)

Return: Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette, Keisean Nixon, Nevin Lawson, Isaiah Johnson, Amik Robertson

Better, worse or the same? Better

And in the role of wise vet Richard Sherman to teach these young people not only Bradley’s plan, but how to be a pro … Hayward. For better or worse, Mullen and Arnette should benefit greatly from the nine-year-old veterinarian. Because even though Hayward has lost a step, it’s one the two have yet to take. Hayward has 23 career moves, or 20 more than Mullen, Arnette, Nixon, Lawson, Johnson and Robertson have – combined. That’s why it’s important to add other vets like Wreh-Wilson (4 career choices) and Douglas (5).

Hobbs impressed enough in the OTAs and minicamp that he could be the team’s nickel cornerback, which should also set up a warning flare around Arnette, a first-round pick last year who only played in nine games as a rookie and spent much of the offseason program as an observer. Then there’s this – the Raiders had only 10 interceptions last season, tied for fifth lowest in the NFL, and only two of those INTs came from cornerbacks. Yes, both of Mullen.

Yikes.

Security

Additions: Trevon Moehrig (second round draft selection), Karl Joseph (Brown), Tyree Gillespie (fourth round of draft elections), Roderic Teamer (no team in 2020)

Loss: Lamarcus Joyner (New York Jets), Erik Harris (Falcons), Jeff Heath (unsigned)

Return: Johnathan Abram, Dallin Leavitt

Better, worse or the same? Better

Moehrig was the highest-rated safety on so many draftniks boards this spring, so his fall to Las Vegas in the second round is a boon for the secondary. He can play free safety, and that would allow Abram, who is often out of control, to focus only on his more natural place in the box. Gillespie can also be a steal as a day 3 pick and will be challenging for snaps, while Joseph, who returns after a year away in Cleveland, must help Abrams mature.

Half of the Raiders ’10 INTs last year came from safeties – a team-leading three by the late Heath and two by Abram – so takeaways need to improve if Bradley wants to see any of the Legion of Boom 2.0 in this youngster and irregular but potentially talented attitude group.

Last week: Crime.

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