The 2023 Las Vegas Raiders will face a gauntlet of elite offenses this season, many of which reside in their own division, the AFC West. For the better part of the last 20 years, the Raiders have had major deficiencies on both sides of the ball, but none bigger than the mess that has been their defensive backfield.
Between missing on free agent signings and fumbling the NFL Drafts, the Raiders have just not been able to find the right combination at safety and cornerback. However, this offseason seems to be a season of change, as the secondary has really stood out during training camp, and will be interesting to watch as the team begins joint practices and their preseason schedule.
The additions were plentiful this offseason, with Marcus Epps joining the safety room, as well as fifth-round pick Chris Smith II. In addition, Isaiah Pola-Mao, who was a UDFA for the Raiders in 2022 has really stepped up, challenging for a roster spot as we enter the preseason slate and get later on in August.
Raiders cornerback room is the best it has been in years
Then there is the cornerback room, as the Raiders picked up a monster free agency signing in Marcus Peters this past week. Peters is a former All-Pro, and while many feel his best seasons are behind him, he seems rejuvenated to put on the Silver and Black, his father's favorite team.
Jakorian Bennett was a fourth-round pick of the Raiders in 2023, but he has emerged as a starting candidate this summer. Duke Shelley and David Long Jr. were free agency signings, as well as Brandon Facyson, while returnees like Nate Hobbs, Tyler Webb, and Amik Robertson bolster the room as a whole.
Hobbs and Tre'Von Moehrig both had big seasons as rookies back in 2021, only to take a step back in 2022, but it appears they are ready to return to form this season. If the Raiders can get solid secondary play, it gives the elite edge rushers on this roster time to get after the quarterback, and that could make life hell for opposing signal-callers.
The truth is, the AFC West, and the conference as a whole is loaded with elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen to name a few. If the Raiders plan to do anything of substance this season, the secondary play is going to be key, and for the first time in a long time, the Raiders just may have the talent back there to compete.