3 Reasons the Las Vegas Raiders will exceed expectations in 2020
It’s no secret one of the Raiders biggest issues throughout the years has been a lack of any consistency on the defensive side of the ball. 2016 saw them have the best defense the Silver and Black had seen in more then a decade, due in large part to Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack’s domination, and their ability to create turnovers.
In 2019, the draft class that Mike Mayock brought in provided a much needed spark to the front line, as the Raiders nearly tripled their sack total from the year prior, reeling in 32 as apposed to a league worst 13 in 2018. Unfortunately, the linebacking group was unbelievably atrocious and proved to be the weakest link within their defense.
Luckily for Raiders fans, the team went out and got two young, and very talented linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. Littleton has made his mark as one of the top linebackers in the NFL previously playing with the Los Angeles Rams, and Kwiatkoski has been rising as an up and coming star in his four years with the Chicago Bears.
On top of that, they drafted hybrid safety/LB and one of the more underrated defensive players out of Clemson, Tanner Muse.
In the defensive back group, they were hindered from the get go, losing rookie CB Isaiah Johnson in a preseason game against the Rams, and rookie safety Johnathan Abram in a Week 1 matchup against the Denver Broncos. Later in the season, the front office traded away 1st round pick Gareon Conley to the Houston Texans to make way for rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen to have a more significant role.
Mullen took that opportunity in stride, proving he could be the lock down corner he was brought in to be.
With one of the biggest surprises in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders brought in Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette to showcase opposite of Mullen. Although Arnette was pegged as a second round guy by most, Mayock and Gruden raved about how versatile and aggressive he can be off the ball, in press coverage and in zone coverage as well.
They also got what many believed to be one of the biggest steals in the draft, bringing in Amik Robertson with their second pick in the 4th round at 139 overall. Robertson is a tough, physical cornerback out of Louisiana Tech, and although a little undersized, will come in and compete with Lamarcus Joyner for the slot cornerback position.
The Raiders had a glaring issue on the coverage side of their defense, both at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. They addressed every aspect of that both in free agency and via the NFL draft.
From running backs like Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, to wide receivers like Tyreek Hill and Keenan Allen, the Raiders have put themselves in a much better position to shut down the top offensive players within the AFC West.