The Las Vegas Raiders had a disappointing 2020 season, and the main reason for that was their defense’s inability to stop anyone.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden decided to make some changes late in the year, firing defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who is a close friend of his, and allowing Rod Marinelli to call the defense for the remainder of the season.
That was only a temporary solution though as the Raiders wasted no time finding a new defensive coordinator once the offseason started, hiring Gus Bradley, formerly of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Gruden has a familiarity with Bradley dating back to their days together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the former is hoping that the latter is the right man to unlock some of the young talent on the Raiders’ defense.
Among those young players are defensive end Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram, both of which were drafted in the first round in 2019 but have yet to meet expectations to this point.
Bradley recently discussed those two players, in particular, stating that he is excited to coach them because of their passion for the game, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic:
“Clelin is a big end that can really rush and hold the point,” Bradley said. “I think he has a high upside and a lot of character. John is very aggressive and you can tell he has a very strong passion for the ball. He will come up and hit you, and he has that fast and physical mentality that I am looking for.
“I think both those guys really love the game of football.”
Ferrell only had 27 total tackles and two sacks in 11 games in 2020, so the hope is that Bradley will be able to develop him as he did with talented pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in Los Angeles.
As a former No. 4 overall pick, Ferrell has yet to be the difference-maker the Raiders had hoped he would be.
The same can be said for Abram, although he missed almost his entire rookie season due to a shoulder injury. There is no doubt that Abram has a lot of talent, but some of the decisions he made throughout the 2020 season often left people scratching their heads.
While Bradley will be tasked with turning the Raiders’ defense around, a lot will also fall on general manager Mike Mayock to bring in the right players through the draft and free agency to execute his scheme.
The Raiders’ offense made huge strides in 2020, so now it will be up to the defense to do the same in 2021 so they can get back to the postseason.