At the risk of sounding like the town crier, the Las Vegas Raiders still have yet to sign a new defensive back. As the days pass by, it begins to feel more and more like the Raiders may pick one early in the draft. If anything, it may feel this way because assuming a defensive back will be drafted is far more calming than the alternative, which would be the Raiders, now overflowing with defensive linemen, are content with their secondary going forward.
During Derek Carr’s tenure, the Raiders struggled to put together a competent defense. They have struggled so much, in fact, that ESPN declared the Raiders the worst defense of the 2011-2020 decade. Yet, the Raiders seem more focused on answering questions about the offense, which somehow only creates more. For example: Can Willie Snead play defense?
Johnathan Abram has been one of the most discussed Raiders’ defensive backs as of late, but his discussions typically center on major hits and tackles, while many hope to swing future conversations towards stifling pass defense. Although Abram plays with reckless abandon one might expect from a linebacker in the 90s, his desire to seek out contact causes problems. As of now, the Raiders seem to have opted for the bone-rattling hits in lieu of a consistent pass defense.
The major struggle with Abram is that a bricklayer is not the worst weapon to have on defense. However, in the pass-first NFL, players like Abram are a bit of a renaissance piece. That is to say, if the rest of the defense is up to snuff, there could be room for physicality. Considering the Raiders do not, by any means, meet the standard. Abram is caught in a bit of a limbo. He must either commit to being a big hitter or dedicate all of his available offseason time to improving his coverage skills.
Recent Failed History
Watching Gareon Conley sit on the free-agent market shows why many question the Raiders’ drafting acumen. But, with enough wiggle room in the cap, what is keeping Las Vegas from going after a proven player? As the saying goes regarding draft picks: “First-year mystery, second-year history. Yet, the Raiders continue to take random fliers on draft picks.
Needed Precedent Change
To make the playoffs, the Raiders need to survive the AFC West. The only differences between a drafted rookie and a 2021 free agent are experience and age. At this point, it could not hurt to mix in a couple of veteran leaders to continue straightening things out.