After watching Johnathan Abram relentlessly hitting his teammates during “half-shell” practices on Hard Knocks, Raiders fans quickly learned two things: Abram was born to wear the Silver and Black, and that he could significantly benefit from mental reps.
Abram repeatedly having to be told to lay off hitting his teammates with such aggression is the exact tenacity the Raiders love to see. His aggression and drive appear to be contagious. As fans witnessed, Abram could be seen swarming to the ball every play he was on the field.
Despite only appearing for one game in the 2019 season, the team had a different level of the tenacity with Abram on the field.
Abram was one of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019, a draft class in which the Raiders not only emphasized skill, but also leadership capabilities. The former Mississippi State Bulldog appeared to immediately gain respect from his teammates, even as a rookie. Abram’s talent combined with his leadership provide him with the potential to become a generational talent.
On the less physical side of things, Abram has a great football mind that just needs a little tweaking. For starters, establishing recognition of teammates in practice would be a great place to begin. Also, mentally adjusting to NFL schemes is a significant learning phase every young defensive back has gone through. Abram sitting out his rookie year set him up for a unique order of learning. Instead of being thrown into gametime situations and learning from his mistakes, Abram gets to learn from his teammates on film.
Learning without in-game experience can have its positives and negatives, as Abram does not have to go through failures of letting his team down firsthand. But, as many know, failure is the greatest teacher. Some have also noted that fear can be the greatest motivator. As of right now, Abram does not know the fear of failure at the highest level.
To be fair, he did shine in his Week One debut against the Broncos, but it would certainly be easier to walk through mental reps if he were to have more NFL film to look through.
Physically, this is still Abram’s rookie year. Mentally, on the other hand, he has had the entire season and 2020 offseason to reach a level of mental preparedness acceptable for NFL readiness. There should be no excuse for mental mistakes and Abram should be regarded as a second-year player, as far as compliments and complaints go.
The best part is that Abram has, in fact, showcased his skill. The Raiders are certainly aware of his impressive talent. This knowledge can be used by the Raiders to push him as most would push a star player. Injuries can provide setbacks, but at times, they can also be quite beneficial for the longterm success of a player.