Raiders make defensive personnel changes on the fly

Raiders depth
Raiders DE Yannick Ngakoue

The Raiders made a number of changes to their defensive personnel in the offseason … and then proceeded to make some additional changes a couple of weeks before the regular season opened.

In the offseason, the team revamped the defensive line by adding Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson and then added defensive back Casey Hayward Jr. as a free agent along with drafting Tre’von Moehrig and Nate Hobbs.

Then, due to injury and opportunity, Las Vegas signed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebackers K.J. Wright and Denzel Perryman.

defensive personnel
Aug 18, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (61) during a joint practice against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I give credit to Mike [Mayock] and Coach Gruden just bringing in players,” said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. “And really how we look at it, or we approach it as a defensive staff, it’s our job whoever we have to make sure they get better. And whoever they bring in and there’s conversations about it. 

“The players you hope they do it so many times, the repetition part builds confidence, and you can see their true athleticism and their skill set. So, like I said, I see many signs showing that but we’ll have our first test, our first opportunity on Monday.” 

Defensive personnel changes included players familiar with Bradley’s system

Two of those players, Wright and Perryman, have history in Bradley’s systems. Perryman played for Bradley when he was defensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Chargers and Wright and Bradley were together with the Seattle Seahawks. Wright signed just 16 days ago.

“The personality part, we know each other,” Bradley said of Wright. “We know how we operate. Now, we’re doing a lot of different things versus what we did in Seattle, so there’s some learning curve there for him. But he’s a quick study, he’s a true pro. Very respected, and we’re trying to get him caught up as fast as possible on some of the new things that we’re doing.”

The new players will have to learn quickly with the Baltimore Ravens coming to town on Monday night, even though the Ravens just placed running back Gus Edwards and tight end Nick Boyle on the injured list, along with starting corner Marcus Peters. Earlier in the offseason, the Ravens lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins.

May 26, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) passes the ball during an OTA at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Still, the Ravens have one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL in Lamar Jackson.

“He’s so talented. I think there’s a lot of respect around the league about his ability to run and how he makes people miss and extends plays,” Bradley said. “But his passing abilities now too, you look at third down, I think he was like ninth in the league in quarterback efficiency. So, I mean he’s got the whole game now. He’s very talented. He can make the throws, he can run, extend plays. That’s why he’s so difficult to defend.”

And even with Dobbins and Edwards out, the Ravens still have plenty of weapons in Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, running back Ty’Son Williams and newly signed Latavius Murray, a former Raider running back.

“I think give them credit, Coach [Greg] Roman and the whole staff there,” Bradley said. “They’re so diverse. They can hit you a number of ways. They can line up and just pound you. They can run the option game. They can come back and do quick game. They can go deep. There’s so many things they can get to. Truly feel bad for all those situations.

“You feel for the players and what they’re going through. But I know him well enough that they’ll adjust, and I think their offense gives them so much flexibility that they can really guide it to maybe one area or the other. We’re just going to play the ball and try to do what we do.”

The Raiders took a cautious approach to playing time in the preseason, holding out the starters for most the action. Bradley said the team worked on individual drills a lot in training camp but he still wants to how good a tackling team they are now that the games count.

“And we’ll find out with the style of runs that they have. They’re really impressive with their run game. Very impressive and so many threats to utilize it.”

Injury report

The Raiders listed six players on the official injury report on Friday, but three were full participants in practice: defensive ends Clelin Ferrell (back) and Carl Nassib (pectoral) and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood (shin).

defensive personnel
Aug 18, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Las Vegas Raiders guard Richie Incognito (64) interacts with Los Angeles Rams vice president of communications Artis Twyman during a joint practice. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Starting guard Richie Incognito (calf) and reserve safety Roderick Teamer (shoulder/ankle) didn’t participate and starting running back Josh Jacobs (toe) was limited.

“I feel good to go,” Jacobs said Friday. “This year I think there’s going to be a lot of practices where I take time to rest my body. Getting into Year 3, taking the most hits on the team, it’s just about being smart early at this point.”

The Ravens had seven players listed on their injury report, including three placed on injured reserve in Edwards (knee), Peters (knee) and Boyle (knee). There were two others who did not participate in practice in defensive end Derek Wolfe (back/hip) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (NIR-Rest).

Linebacker Daelin Hayes (knee) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) were limited in practice.