Better, worse or the same? How the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense has changed this offseason

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HENDERSON, Nev. — Three photos of the Las Vegas Raiders protection collapsing late to burn into your cerebral cortex:

Yeah, the protection was the difficulty final season, the distinction, many say, between the 8-8 end Las Vegas had and an 11-5 playoff berth.

Enter Gus Bradley, architect of the Legion of Increase protection in Seattle. With the fitting items in place, the Raiders’ new defensive coordinator can area a unit that greater than disrupts opposing offenses. And 5 of the Raiders’ seven draft picks had been on the defensive aspect of the ball. As Bradley mentioned, with such a younger and impressionable forged, it is a “race to maturity” for his protection.

So did the protection get higher this offseason, worse or keep the identical? Time will finally inform, however the protection, which ranked No. 25 total final yr and had simply 15 takeaways, 30th within the 32-team NFL, was not at all times horrible. It did have late stops in Carolina, on the Los Angeles Chargers and in Denver to shut out wins. In any other case, the Raiders would have completed 5-11, proper?

Defensive position

Additions: Yannick Ngakoue (Baltimore Ravens), Malcolm Koonce (third-round draft decide), Solomon Thomas (San Francisco 49ers), Matt Dickerson (Tennessee Titans), Quinton Jefferson (Buffalo Payments), Darius Philon (didn’t play in 2020), Darius Stills (rookie free agent)

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

Returners: Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Johnathan Hankins, Carl Nassib, Kendal Vickers, Niles Scott, Gerri Inexperienced

Higher, worse or the identical? Higher

Crosby (17 profession sacks) and Ferrell (6.5 profession sacks) stay the third-year basis items on the sting and can solely profit from the arrival of a bonafide sack grasp and turnover creator in Ngakoue. The query, then, is whose pass-rushing snaps does Ngakoue take?

Count on a beefed-up Ferrell to maneuver inside on these downs. The inside of the road, in the meantime, has been completely revamped and the arrivals of Thomas, Dickerson, Jefferson and Philon will make for a crowded — albeit, entertaining — DT Room in coaching camp.

Linebackers

Additions: Divine Deablo (third-round draft decide), Max Richardson (rookie free agent), Asmar Bilal (Chargers), Darron Lee (Payments)

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

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

Higher, worse or the identical? Similar

It could actually’t worsen, can it? So any transfer right here is an enchancment, particularly if Bradley can get Littleton shifting in the fitting path. However let’s stick with “similar” right here for now for the reason that solely actual addition was Deablo, who is just not solely making the transfer from security however was banged up sufficient to overlook most of OTAs and minicamp (he had additionally but to signal his rookie contract). Additionally regulate Bilal, as he is aware of Bradley’s scheme.

However once more, all of it comes again to Kwiatkoski within the center and Littleton discovering his previous type as a sideline-to-sideline protection LB like he was with the Rams, the place he led the group in tackles in 2018 and 2019 with 5 interceptions. In a career-low 14 video games final yr, Littleton was shut out on INTs, sacks and compelled fumbles. Morrow was the Raiders’ greatest linebacker final yr and, no insult to him, however that has to alter for this unit to enhance.

Cornerbacks

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

Losses: Daryl Worley (unsigned)

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

Higher, worse or the identical? Higher

And within the function of wily vet Richard Sherman to show these kids not solely Bradley’s scheme however be a professional … Hayward. For higher or worse, Mullen and Arnette ought to profit tremendously from the nine-year vet’s presence. As a result of even when Hayward has misplaced a step, it is one these two have but to take. Hayward has 23 profession interceptions, or, 20 greater than Mullen, Arnette, Nixon, Lawson, Johnson and Robertson have — mixed. Therefore the significance of including different vets like Wreh-Wilson (4 profession picks) and Douglas (5).

Hobbs impressed sufficient in OTAs and minicamp that he may very well be the group’s nickel cornerback, which also needs to put warning flares up round Arnette, a first-round decide final yr who solely performed in 9 video games as a rookie and spent a lot of the offseason program as an observer. Then there’s this — the Raiders had simply 10 interceptions final season, tied for fifth-fewest within the NFL, and solely two of these INTs got here from cornerbacks. Sure, each by Mullen.

Yikes.

Safeties

Additions: Trevon Moehrig (second-round draft decide), Karl Joseph (Browns), Tyree Gillespie (fourth-round draft decide), Roderic Teamer (no group in 2020)

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

Returners: Johnathan Abram, Dallin Leavitt

Higher, worse or the identical? Higher

Moehrig was the top-rated security on so many draftniks’ boards this spring, so his falling to Las Vegas within the second spherical is a boon for the secondary. He can play free security, and that might enable the often-out-of-control Abram to focus solely on his extra pure spot within the field. Gillespie may be a steal as a Day 3 decide and might be difficult for snaps, whereas Joseph returning after a yr away in Cleveland ought to assist Abram’s maturation.

Half of the Raiders’ 10 INTs final yr got here from safeties — a team-leading three by the departed Heath and two by Abram — so the takeaways have to enhance if Bradley needs to see some semblance of Legion of Increase 2.0 on this younger and erratic however doubtlessly gifted place group.

Final week: Offense.

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