The Oakland Raiders made great efforts to improve their defense throughout the 2019 NFL offseason. For the team that allowed the most points throughout the 2018 season, this will be the biggest step in propelling the team back to greatness.
Bringing in players such as safety Lamarcus Joyner and No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell should help to fortify the defense, but one other young player has shined this offseason. First-round pick and former Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram has become a bright spot for the Silver and Black.
Thus far, Abram’s performance throughout team activities has led his teammates and coaches to sing his praises. According to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was one of those people:
“He’s smart,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said Tuesday. “He’s real smart. From a rookie player, with all the stuff safeties have to know, he’s on top of it each and every day. So it’s good to have him. When you’re back there, as I stand at the back of the defense, I hear him communicate. He doesn’t sound like a rookie player. He sounds like a veteran player.”
The on-field smarts that Abram has shown have already propelled him to a starting position. Part of that can be attributed to his excellent communication skills, as Guenther mentioned. If the Raiders hope to develop an elite defense, communication will be the key.
Joyner, who signed a four year, $42 million contract this offseason, will most likely be starting alongside Abram. The veteran safety spent his first five seasons in St. Louis and Los Angeles with the Rams, after being drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Joyner expressed his belief that Abram will continue to develop into an NFL star:
“He’s an alpha,” nickel cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said. “He just has to slow it down. He’s ready to go. He’s been an alpha all of his life, and I told him that you just have to think, keep your feet on the ground and let things come to him.”
With both Abram and Joyner manning the safety spots, the pair should form a formidable pass defense for the Raiders. Abram grabbed two interceptions in his final year at Mississippi State and Joyner snagged four in his final two years with the Rams.
Abram is one of many rookies the Raiders drafted to fill in defensive holes. Of course, Ferrell is expected to be an immediate standout, but the Raiders will also be hoping to get production from fellow Clemson draftee, Trayvon Mullen. Ferrell and Mullen won two championships at Clemson and are excited to continue sharing the field in Oakland.