The No. 24 has a storied history in Raiders franchise lore. The number claims importance, most recently by Charles Woodson, Michael Huff and Marshawn Lynch. Before that trio, it was proudly worn by Fred Williamson (more on him later) and “Old Man” Willie Brown.
Now, intriguing rookie Johnathan Abram dawns the proud number. Like the poem, Autumn Wind, Abram comes well-equipped with bluster and swagger. He shows a penchant to knock opponents down, turn them upside down and laugh after. This is a sorely missing element in the Raiders defensive backfield.
The last time the Raiders had a confident rookie sporting the two-four, it was Woodson. C-Wood and Abram could be seen exchanging salutations at camp. What was said? “I said, ‘That edge you have, don’t lose it,’” Woodson said. “There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions of him right now. Don’t lose that edge, man, because if you start doing what other people want you to do, you won’t be who you’re supposed to be.”
Woodson expanded on his thoughts on Abram.
“I like the confidence. I do,” Woodson said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be about what he does between the lines. You can talk, but if you back it up, nobody’s going to have a problem with that. If you’re out there making plays, you can say whatever you want to say.”
The Mississippi State product has a growing fan club inside and outside the organization. From defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Abram has opened eyes.
“I just think he’s wise beyond his years,” said Guenther when asked about what he’s seen from Abram. “He doesn’t act like a rookie, when he’s out there, he sounds like a seven or eight-year vet and I think the players take notice of that. The thing’s not too big for him.”
Then there’s Burfict who likely got goosebumps from Abram.
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“He has an extreme confidence, I love it though,” said Burfict when asked about Abram. “He shows it in film study, like today, we had a play and he opened his mouth up and, obviously, he said something in front of the defense that kind of gave me the chills. I don’t want to say it because it’s kind of just in house study, he’s going to be a great player for us.”
There’s been glimpses of what impact Abram can have on the Raiders defense in preseason play. But Week 1 of the regular season is where it matters. And Abram needs to be a savage from kickoff to the end of the 2019 campaign.
He’s one of the Raiders 2019 first-round triplets along with Clelin Ferrell (Clemson, No. 4 overall) and Josh Jacobs (Alabama, No. 24).
Forget the Recent Past
And let’s not forget, there’s plenty in RaiderNation that remain hurt from watching Derwin James go to the rival Los Angeles Chargers. The game-changing safety serves as an enforcer in coverage, run defense and pass rush.
The Raiders plucked Abram from the draft class at No. 27 to have a similar impact. Fast, rugged, instinctive and habitual deliverer of punishment at Mississippi State, Abram needs to b that and more in the NFL.
And this harkens back to history, folks. The Raiders took a safety — No. 7 overall — with a similar attributes and skillset (sans the brash attitude, of course) in Huff. At Texas, he was fast and intelligent player whose knock was tackling. But Huff did it all.
Abram has a chance to write his own history, of course. But if he were to fall somewhere between Williamson and Woodson, Raider Nation should be ecstatic.
Woodson’s career speaks for itself, however, Williamson, who earned the moniker “The Hammer”, spent four years in a Raider uniform starting in 1961 and picked of 25 passes in that span earning four-straight Pro Bowl nods.
If Abram’s takeaways match his mouth, that’ll be money well-spent.