Which defensive players would be good fits for the Raiders?
By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)
The Las Vegas Raiders finished the 2020 season just outside the playoffs and the biggest casualty of the season was defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther was fired after the Week 14 loss against the Indianapolis Colts where the Colts scored 44 points and gained 456 yards.
The team’s new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley. Bradley has coached for Jon Gruden before as linebackers coach in Tampa Bay from 2006 ”“ 2008. He was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers from 2017 ”“ 2020.
Bradley was also the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2009 ”“ 2012 when they started being known as the “Legion of Boom”. While the Raiders have needs on defense on all three levels, if Bradley can get the secondary close to what he had in Seattle, the Raiders will be a force to be reckoned with.
Before figuring out which players the Raiders should target, it is important to see what they had in 2020. The 2020 defensive leaders for the Raiders include:
- DE Maxx Crosby ”“ 7.0 sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 14 tackles for loss
- S Jeff Heath ”“ 3 interceptions
- S Johnathan Abram ”“ 86 tackles
So without further adieu, here are five players that the Raiders should target:
Cornerback Richard Sherman
Very often players are connected to teams based on some previous relationship. For Richard Sherman and the Raiders, the relationship is Gus Bradley. Sherman played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2011 ”“ 2017 and then for the San Francisco 49ers from 2018 ”“ 2020.
In his career, Sherman has 36 interceptions, including a league leading eight in 2013. He is a sure tackler and leader in the defensive backfield. He is also extremely smart even though sometimes he gets portrayed as a player who plays by emotion instead of intellect.
Sherman is going to be 33 once the 2021 season starts and can bring great leadership to a cornerback room that includes young players like Damon Arnette and Trayvon Mullen. Even if Sherman is no longer the lockdown corner he once was he can be very valuable.
Additionally, cornerback is one of those positions that a team seemingly can never have enough of. Inevitably someone gets hurt and teams need the next guy to step up, so the more players with experience in the cornerback room, the better.
Edge Justin Houston
The Raiders are in desperate need of pass-rush help. As mentioned earlier, Maxx Crosby led the Raiders in sacks last season with 7.0 and the team had a total of 21. Adding Justin Houston will give the Raiders a player who can get to the quarterback.
Houston started his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and in 2019 he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts to a two-year $24 million contract. In his career he has 97.5 sacks. While that is elevated due to his 22 sacks in 2014 for the Chiefs, he still is a top level edge-rusher as he had 19 sacks in his two years with the Colts.
Looking at Maxx Crosby’s and Justin Houston’s 2020 numbers, Houston had more sacks but Crosby had more tackles for loss and quarterback hits. Teaming them up with each other will give teams fits and will give each of them more opportunities to get to the quarterback.
Also, with both of them on the outside, a good defensive tackle could reap the benefit and have a Pro Bowl level season.
Defensive Tackle Larry Ogunjobi
The Raiders have only one defensive tackle, Maurice Hurst Jr., on the roster. Moves will need to be made at the defensive tackle spot and Larry Ogunjobi would be a good fit. He is only 26 years old so there is still a lot of upside for his game.
Ogunjobi spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. He played 60 games for the Browns, starting 47 of them. His career stats are 180 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 37 quarterback hits.
In 2018 and 2019, Ogunjobi played well for the Browns. He had 5.5 sacks in each of those seasons. He also played over 73% of the defensive snaps in both of those seasons.
In 2020, however, he saw his snap counts drop to 61% of the defensive snaps. The biggest difference was in 2020 Ogunjobi was taken off the field most of the time on 3rd down, as opposed to 2018 and 2019 when he played a solid amount of 3rd down snaps.
Cornerback Brian Poole
Brian Poole may not be a household name like some of the other options at cornerback but he is definitely worth considering. He is the perfect fit as a slot cornerback, which more and more is becoming a starting spot.
As mentioned earlier, if defensive coordinator Gus Bradley wants to recreate the “Legion of Boom” the Raiders will need to sign multiple cornerbacks. Poole would slide right in to the slot; where in the last two seasons he has given up just one touchdown and a passer rating below 70.
He is coming off a season where he only played in nine games but still put up solid numbers. His two interceptions are the second most for any year in his career. He also had 44 tackles, one sack and seven passes defended.
Linebacker Jayon Brown
Currently there are only four linebackers on the Raiders roster, so adding Brown to the team is an important move to make. Brown works best in zone coverage and since 2017 he has the fourth best forced incompletion percentage.
Brown did sustain an injury in Week 11 of the 2020 season but was playing well prior to that. The Raiders may be able to sign Brown to a one-year “prove it” contract. This could be especially helpful as the salary cap is not expected to have the typical bump as it usually does.
Brown is an athletic linebacker and with the right moves made around him he can become a leader on defense.