The Las Vegas Raiders had high hopes for their defense going into the 2020 NFL season. After all, they had made serious efforts through free agency and the draft in recent years to revamp this group at each level.
While some of the moves have panned out quite nicely so far, others have fallen vastly short of expectations.
Among the notable names is that in cornerback Damon Arnette, who was taken with the No. 19 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Arnette struggled to find his footing as a rookie after appearing in just nine games.
Raiders head Coach Jon Gruden did not hold back when it came to evaluating his rookie year, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez:
“He’s got to pick it up,” Gruden said of Arnette. “He’s got to get stronger … availability is a real concern right now, but he has to get in the weight room with … a lot of these young defensive players. He’s got to prove that he can stay available during these games. Disappointing rookie season, but very talented young man, though. We did not get all the things we expected from him for a lot of the reasons I just listed.”
Arnette finished the season with just two passes defensed and 25 tackles after starting in seven of his nine games. Gruden’s comments indicate that his lack of availability is one of the biggest concerns that they will address this offseason.
Of course, Arnette’s performance is hardly the only reason that this Raiders’ defense endured a disappointing season. The secondary as a whole had largely served as a weak point for this already porous group under former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
The onus will now fall on new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to develop this young core of talent that Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have assembled in recent years. It is safe to say that Arnette will be a top priority this offseason, especially when it comes to getting in the weight room.
Fortunately, there is still plenty of time for Arnette to improve before officially being labeled as a potential bust for the Raiders. He will need to bounce back with a big year if he hopes to erase any doubt Gruden or his critics may have about his status as a former first-round pick.