The Las Vegas Raiders have invested a ton of draft capital on the defense, and the young players are emerging at camp so far this summer.
The Las Vegas Raiders 2021 NFL Draft was a defensive extravaganza. Of the seven prospects drafted by the Raiders in the Draft, five of the seven were defensive players. This clearly fits a need as the Raiders had one of the league’s worst defenses in 2020.
The defensive woes of the Raiders were not ignored by the front office, as not only were significant upgrades made through the draft and free agency, but the Raiders also hired Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator. The former Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator is surely an upgrade over former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther or even interim defensive coordinator, and defensive line coach, Rod Marinelli.
Fast forward to 2021, the Raiders are getting a full training camp, which was not possible in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are looking to change up the defensive side in more ways than one. What has come as a major surprise has been the young talent brought in.
Young Raiders defenders emerging at camp
Running first-team reps this far into training camp is not a small task, in fact, if this point in the game, whoever is running first-team reps is either leaning towards being entrenched as a starter or battling for a starting position.
This is where two rookies are truly shining on the defensive side. One Tre’Von Moehrig is an all-around talent at safety that combines superb coverage skills with a knack for the big hit, and his pedigree is not just based on being one of the top players selected in round two. Moehrig, at TCU last season, won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
The ball-hawking ability of Moehrig has already been noticed by the Raiders, and despite being a rookie, is already taking first-team reps in training camp. With former first-round Raiders picks in Johnathan Abram and Karl Joseph in the mix, this is very impressive and shows that Moehrig, despite his inexperience is already up to par and ready to make his presence felt day one in Las Vegas.
The other rookie defensive back who is receiving first-team reps is a bit of a surprise, well let’s be honest here, this is a major shock. Nate Hobbs a name most were not familiar with before the 2021 NFL Draft, as he was an unheralded prospect out of Illinois.
A name that was not tossed around at all in many drafts has been turning heads in training camp, and as it stands now is looking to take over as the starting cornerback in the slot. This is a position the Raiders have had issues with in the past, which led to the Raiders cutting former starting slot man Lamarcus Joyner in the offseason.
The starting slot position was wide open before camp, with Hobbs seen mainly as an afterthought with 2020 draft pick Amik Robertson and veteran Nevin Lawson looking to gain the inside for the starting job, Hobbs shocked many and so far has been outplaying both by a large margin, as his coverage skills are very tight and controlled for a rookie, and the fifth round pick is so far looking like a steal.
A lot of pundits have been quick to point out how troubling the team is looking, fielding such a young secondary so far, but honestly, this shows just how talented the Raiders’ draft picks have been. This draft class has yet to take the field, so we will temper expectations here, but if the solid and consistent play through training camp is any indicator, the Raiders draft class and these two special players especially will look to have an impact on the Raiders into the foreseeable future.