The Las Vegas Raiders defense was once again one of the worst in football last season, as they struggled on all three levels. There were some bright spots, but for the most part, the Silver and Black were downright bad on that side of the ball in the first season with Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator.
Going into 2023, the team cannot afford a repeat performance, and it will be interesting to see if the new faces can step up and change the fortunes of the franchise on that side of the ball. To do so, the team cannot afford a down season from these three players.
Defensive players the Las Vegas Raiders cannot afford to have a down season in 2023
3. Chandler Jones
One of the biggest moves of the 2022 offseason came in the person of Chandler Jones, who was expected to come in and take the pressure off of Maxx Crosby when it came to rushing the passer. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Jones was pretty much non-existent for most of the season, and once he finally started to turn it on, he got injured.
Going into his second season with the Silver and Black, the Raiders cannot afford another down season, as there is too much money invested in him, and he has a rookie coming after his job. Jones was once an All-Pro in the NFL, and while those days are likely behind him, there is no reason why he cannot be a very productive player for the Raiders in 2023.
2. Marcus Epps
As is the case every season, the Raiders went into the offseason with problems in the secondary, problems they hope they solved via free agency and the NFL Draft. At safety, second-year player Tre'Von Moehrig took a big step back in Year 2 last season, so the hope is that he can figure it out, and team with Marcus Epps to give the Raiders a strong duo at the position.
For Epps, this is a huge season for him, as he is fresh off helping the Philadelphia Eagles make it to the Super Bowl. He is a very talented safety, and one that can help Patrick Graham turn this secondary around, but the hope is that he does not follow in the footsteps of so many other talented defensive backs who have come to the Raiders in free agency and failed.
1. Divine Deablo
Finally, we look at the middle of the Raiders defense, as Divine Deablo has a lot of pressure on him going into his third season in the NFL. After an injury robbed him of half of the 2022 season, Deablo has come into this offseason with big expectations, as he will wear the green dot, and lead a position group that is thin in terms of depth, and bodies.
Deablo was leading the Raiders in tackles when his season was cut short, but he has more than enough talent to be a legitimate three-down linebacker for the Raiders this season. If he reaches expectations, the Raiders could be set for a long time at the position, but if he struggles, there is not enough talent around him to pick up the slack.