Raiders: All eyes will be on a revamped defense in 2020

Raiders (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders’ new-look defense will have all the attention in 2020

The Las Vegas Raiders have slowly managed to build up their defense over the past few seasons. And now after an offseason with multiple big-name additions, the pressure will be on the defense to perform.

It seems like it’s been forever since the Raiders have had a truly dominant defense — that’s partially because it essentially has been. The Raiders haven’t had a defense rank in the top half of the league in points allowed in nearly two decades.

Since their legendary 2002 season, the Raiders have had just one defense rank inside the top-20 in the NFL in points allowed — their 2-14 2006 season that was ravaged by the worst offense in the league.

The years of lackluster defensive play came to a head in 2018 where the Raiders hosted the worst defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed. And with an abysmal 13 sacks on the year, it was clear that a lot needed to be changed.

But in the past two offseasons, the Raiders have acquired a number of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball to hopefully fix what was once the worst unit in the league.

And we saw the beginnings of their metamorphosis last season.

More from Las Vegas Raiders News

Looking at the Raiders’ foundation on defense

Players like Maxx Crosby and Trayvon Mullen who will hopefully lead the next era of Raiders football on defense.

Crosby emerged as one of the possible steals of the 2019 NFL Draft racking up a whopping 10 sacks in his rookie season. And Mullen became a full-time starter following the Gareon Conley trade showing enough promise to pencil him in as a starter of the future.

A foundation was laid, but there was still some more work to be done.

The linebacker position remained perhaps their biggest hole — as it has for quite some time — so the Raiders signed Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency, and drafted Tanner Muse in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Just like that, their linebacker corps was completely remade in one offseason. And not with veteran stopgaps like Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. This time, the Raiders have planned for the future.

They also managed to bolster their defensive line with the additions of Maliek Collins and Carl Nassib.

Collins will play a key role in the defensive line rotation playing alongside Johnathan Hankins and the similarly-skilled Maurice Hurst at defensive tackle. Nassib, on the other hand, could spell 2019 first-round pick Clelin Ferrell at defensive end from time to time.

The defensive line has the potential to be the strength of this Raiders defense.

Cornerback still remains questionable but there is a clear plan in place. Opposite Mullen, first-round pick Damon Arnette and veteran Prince Amukamara will compete for the other starting job.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Lamarcus Joyner is expected to start in the slot, but look for fourth-round rookie Amik Robertson to give him a run for his money by season’s end.

And for the first time in years, the Raiders actually have depth at safety with a foursome of Johnathan Abram, Damarious Randall, Erik Harris, and Jeff Heath giving the team one of the deepest defensive backfields in football.

Is this all wishful thinking? Perhaps.

But the Raiders have the talent on defense to have one of the better units in the league. They’ll need things to go their way though.

The defensive line must develop into a true strength with Ferrell taking the next step and Crosby proving that his rookie season wasn’t a fluke. The linebacker group looks improved on paper, but Littleton and Kwiatkoski will need to justify their newly-signed contracts.

And the secondary, that remains perhaps the biggest concern. Will the likes of Mullen, Arnette, and Abram develop into true above-average starters? Or will their struggles force run-of-the-mill veterans into their roles?

Raiders: Maurice Hurst on the verge of breaking out in 2020. dark. Next

The jury is still out on the Raiders’ defense. But after years of lackluster performances, all eyes will be on Paul Guenther’s unit to succeed in 2020.