Ranking the Raiders defensive position groups against the AFC West
By Matt Holder
The Las Vegas Raiders other big issue on the defensive side of the ball was in the secondary, where they had to bolster the cornerback position behind second-year starter Trayvon Mullen. They did that during the 2020 NFL Draft, adding Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson, before bringing in Prince Amukamara in free agency.
Los Angeles has an embarrassment of riches in its defensive backfield. The group features former All-Pros Casey Hayward, Chris Harris, Derwin James, and Desmond King, and they take our top spot in terms of the secondaries in the AFC West.
All four have played at very high levels recently and if 2019 second-round pick Nassir Adderly can stay healthy and put it together, this might be the best secondary in the entire league. The Chargers have quietly put together a solid defense on all three levels, which makes them a scary team this season.
The Broncos have two very good safeties in Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons. Last year, Jackson allowed 278 receiving yards and a passer rating of 75.8 when targeted, while Simmons surrendered 288 yards and a rating of 43.6.
Denver does have a couple of question marks on the outside as A.J. Bouye is coming off a down year, and Bryce Callahan missed all of last season with a broken foot. However, both guys were good players in 2018 and can easily bounce back.
In just one season with the Chiefs, Tyrann Mathieu established himself as the alpha in the team’s defensive backfield. The first-team All-Pro selection did it all in 2019 as he covered the slot, played in the box, and dropped back as a free safety. Cornerback Charvarius Ward also stepped up for Kansas City a year ago, allowing a completion percentage of 47.2 and a passer rating of 65.2.
The rest of the group, Juan Thornhill, Bashaud Breeland, and Rashad Fenton don’t exactly strike fear into the opponent’s eyes, but they are solid players who give the team a well-rounded secondary.
Las Vegas has a lot of young, up and coming talent in its defensive backfield, but that’s also part of the problem. Trayvon Mullen is the best returning starter, and he’s only made ten NFL starts. The recent addition of Prince Amukamara will bring more experience to the group, however, he’s not a lock to start after allowing a 66.2 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 105.2 last year.
The Raiders could easily head to Carolina with this starting lineup: Mullen, Damon Arnette, Damarious Randall, Johnathan Abram, and Amik Robertson, meaning only one player in the secondary has at least a full season of starting experience. Sure, Lamarcus Joyner could replace Robertson, but Joyner was abysmal last year and his spot is far from locked down. There is plenty of potential for the Silver and Black’s defensive backs, but until they show some production on the field, the position group is a big question mark.