The Las Vegas Raiders made it no secret that they were looking to improve the secondary this NFL offseason.
After all, they had utilized several first and second-round picks to fill out their personnel. This helped them establish the cornerback duo of Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette that unfortunately fell short of expectations during the 2020 campaign.
The Raiders made efforts in free agency to alleviate the youth movement by signing veteran cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Rasul Douglas. The hope is that the added experience will help pay some dividends for their young talent.
Now going into Year 3, Mullen is starting to trek into veteran territory amid all the new changes to the defense. Fortunately, he is optimistic that he is ready to take that next step.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m better than ever,” Mullen said. “I trained hard this offseason, I’m still going hard, learning this new system, helping the young guys. Being around the young guys is helping me get even better. Being accountable of a lot of things. Trying to be that leader for the younger guys, so I can be good for myself and as a team, for my teammates, but I feel like I’m better than ever. I’m prepared, I’m ready. I practice hard on my fundamentals and just the way I approach each day.”
Mullen emerged as an immediate starter for the Raiders after being taken in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Despite a promising rookie year, he made his fair share of mistakes during Year 2.
Regardless, there is still good reason to be optimistic about Mullen after registering two interceptions and 14 passes defensed during his sophomore campaign. His comments indicate that he has made some solid strides in his development this offseason.
There is no question that the defense was an Achilles heel during the team’s meltdown in the second half of the season. As a result, head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock emphasized improving a group that finished 25th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed last year.
The onus will fall on new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to get this defense back on track following a rough stretch since Gruden’s arrival. It is safe to say that he will be relying heavily on the emergence of both Mullen and Arnette to play their part in his Cover-3 scheme.
The arrival of Hayward should help serve as a stabilizing factor given his familiarity with Bradley’s system.