Last season, the Las Vegas Raiders once again had one of the worst defenses in all of football. Despite all the hoopla surrouding Patrick Graham's arrival as defensive coordinator, there was just not enough talent on that side of the ball, and some players expected to lead took a big step backward.
In the secondary, Nate Hobbs and Tre'Von Moehrig were coming off strong rookie seasons, only to falter in Year 2, and their first in Graham's system. In 2023, both players will be expected to take a step back in the right direction, but it is another third-year player who must step up more than any other defender on this roster.
That player is Divine Deablo, the Raiders veteran linebacker who will wear the greet dot for the Silver and Black this offseason. With the Raiders thin at the linebacker position, and Deablo coming off a strong season that was cut short by injury, his play in 2023 could make or break Las Vegas on that side of the ball.
Raiders need a Pro Bowl season from Deablo
The question is, whether or not the expectations being placed on Deablo are a bit too high for a player who has never made the Pro Bowl. Deablo has the physical gifts to be a standout player at the NFL level, and was leading the team in tackles at the time of his injury last season, but he has made only 13 starts in his NFL career.
That is not to say Deablo won't be healthy all of 2023, and he could very well turn into a star player for the Raiders defense, but we may need to pump the brakes a bit right now. The Raiders need him in the worst way this season, and though the organization is very high on him, let's hope that he rebounds from the injury and can take on the responsibilities of wearing the green dot successfully.
All told, the Raiders have some big question marks on defense, and Deablo is certainly one of them. While I expect him to have a terrific season, and likely eclipse the 100-tackle mark while being a three-down player, my expectation is he will struggle at times, much like the Raiders defense as a whole will.