Base 4-3 Defense
- Yannick Ngakoue, Quinton Jefferson, Johnathan Hankins, Clelin Ferrell
- Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Nicholas Morrow
- Casey Hayward, Trevon Moehrig, Johnathan Abram, Trayvon Mullen
After a terrible 2020 for the Raiders defense, in comes a slew of changes at the two levels of the unit that really struggled. We’ll start off with the big boys in front, as the Raiders finally land a player that can be considered a premier pass rusher in Yannick Ngakoue, who can step in as the LDE in place of Clelin Ferrell.
At DT, Johnathan Hankins returns to hold down the fort as the interior run stopper, and alongside him the Raiders have many options but will likely opt for the experience of Quinton Jefferson. On the other side at defensive end is a surprise, as Clelin Ferrell takes the starting role from Maxx Crosby in the base defense.
This may sound sacrilege, as Crosby has been the sack artist of the team for two years now, but he has also been average at best against the run, and seeing fewer snaps will make him more effective as a pass rusher. At the end of the day, the starters on the defensive line are interchangeable based on the opponent, and a deep unit with guys rotating in and out is a better recipe for success than a stagnant starting unit.
The linebacker group is unchanged from 2020 but a major leap in performance will be required if the Raiders want to compete in 2021. Cory Littleton and Nicholas Morrow will likely be preferred in a Nickel defense due to their coverage ability, but Nick Kwiatkoski is no slouch in that area as well.
At defensive back, we have two new starters in veteran Casey Hayward and Trevon Moehrg at CB and FS, respectively, as they replace two players who underperformed last year in Damon Arnette and Erik Harris. Arnette could still see the field quite a bit as the nickel corner, or elsewhere given how much turnover usually happens in the defensive backfield.
Johnathan Abram retains his starting spot but he will be looking over his shoulder at Karl Joseph who will be nipping at his heels for a place in the defense.