3 reasons the Raiders will have the best defense in the AFC West in 2022
While the Raiders might not have the most talented defenders in the secondary in the division they do have some pretty solid players back there and a couple of coaches with good histories of coaching up their players. When the Raiders let last season’s No. 1 cornerback Casey Hayward, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley and Defensive Backs coach Ron Milus go, Raider fans were in a small panic.
However, I believe they upgraded.
The Raiders brought in Rock Ya-Sin from the Colts in a trade for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and they brought in defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham to replace Gus Bradley. It will remain to be seen if the combination of Chris Ash and Jason Simmons will be enough to replace a defensive backs coach with as much respect around the league as Ron Milus does, but the Panthers’ secondary did perform better than expected under Simmons these past couple seasons.
He even took an older Stephon Gilmore and turned him into a No. 1 corner once again last season after acquiring him in a trade. The Raiders also brought in Anthony Averett in as a free agent from the Baltimore Ravens and performed when forced into a starting role last season amid a slew of Ravens injuries.
Averett went from 54% defensive snap counts in 2020 to playing 90% of the defensive snaps last season for the Ravens and allowed only a 55.7% completion percentage against with three touchdowns allowed and three interceptions, which would’ve led the Raiders last season.
The Raiders also brought in safety Duron Harmon to push fourth-year safety, Johnathan Abram. Harmon had previously spent time with Mcdaniels and Graham in New England so there is a familiarity with the player and system. Harmon spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons where he accrued five interceptions.
These new players just add to the talent the Raiders already have on defense with two rookies who flew way under the national radar, but were two of the top players at their position not just rookies in Safety Trevon Moehrig and fifth-round pick slot cornerback Nate Hobbs, who, according to PFF, was not only a top slot corner but one of the top corners in all the NFL.
The biggest questions in the secondary will be safety Johnathan Abram and cornerback Trayvon Mullen. Although both have the talent to play at this level, Abram has struggled to defend the deep pass throughout his career, and both suffered season-ending injuries last season.
Unfortunately, that has been a regular occurrence for Johnathan Abram, who has missed parts of every season so far in his career including only playing one half of his rookie season before being out the remainder of the year. Mullen had offseason surgery on his foot in Week 5 last season and was out the rest of the year when on the field Mullen has number one corner ability, but he recently underwent an offseason foot surgery and hopefully, he will be back in time for training camp.