New players making their mark on Raiders defense

Kirk Kern
raiders defense
Oct 17, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson (35) signs autographs after the game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Two players who weren’t even on the opening day roster have worked their way into key roles in a vastly improved Raiders defense.

The Raiders signed defensive back Brandon Facyson off the Chargers practice squad on Oct. 6 and defensive tackle Damion Square signed on Sept. 15 after Gerald McCoy was placed on the injured list. He had been on the Chicago Bears practice squad.

Both played big roles last week in a win in Denver. Square had two assisted tackles and half a sack while Facyson had three tackles and an interception.

raiders defense
Oct 17, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) makes a catch ahead of Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson (35) in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

“Yeah, I think with both of them there is a lot of trust,” said Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. “We know exactly what we are getting from them. Damion Square is extremely intelligent, understands what he does well at and just really a student of the game. So, really a guy that puts a lot of time into studying film and there is just complete trust with him out there. 

“Facyson, that is a guy because of his length I think that’s what stood out to us about him and he came in and did a really good job for us in a time that we needed him to.”

Of course, Bradley knows both of these players as they both spent time in San Diego when Bradley was defensive coordinator there.

Square adds depth to Raiders defense

Square spent six years with the Chargers, starting 23 games. He’s worked his way up to playing time with the Raiders the old fashioned way, he’s earned it. Bradley said his playing time has come as a reward for hard work in practice.

“He’s done a great job,” Bradley said. “I talked to him and said, ‘I don’t know how we are going to get you up, but we got to find a way to get you up.’ And some of these guys if they know they are going to have a role if they practice hard, sometimes it’s different packages that we present to them and then the opportunity to play.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about morale, but I do know that when everybody is playing the morale has a chance to be high and that’s what we are trying to do with the defensive line as well. Keep those guys rolling, keep them fresh and morale is high, and they are fighting for playing time.”

Facyson earning more time on Raiders defense

Facyson got an opportunity due to injuries to cornerbacks Treyvon Mullen and Damon Arnette. Then he outplayed Amik Robertson, earning 59 snaps last week against Denver compared to Robertson’s 13.

In his first week on the roster, Facyson played on special teams and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said he did a good job on punt and kickoff returns.

Facyson is part of a youth movement in the Raiders defensive backfield. Rookie Tre’von Moehrig starts at free safety and rookie Nate Hobbs is a backup corner. Starting strong safety Johnathan Abram is in his third year while Robertson, Facyson and safety Roderic Teamer are each second-year players. Third-string safety Dallin Leavitt is in his third year.

Raiders defense
Sep 13, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. (29) celebrates a touchdown with teammates against the Baltimore Ravens at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. is in his 10th year and recently signed Desmond Trufant has been in the league nine years.

“Our job is to make sure we get better and then we trust by getting better we’ll play to the standard, but sometimes you can get caught up in all the other things, how are we on third down red zone?” Bradley said. “First, let’s just make sure we get better and that’s really the challenge to every player and they know they might only get two or three reps a period, but those reps we need to see improvement. And we show that in the meetings the next day, just that we have to have that. 

“We need to see that. It’s kind of a cliché, just get better every day, but we need to see improvement because you know a guy like [Brandon] Facyson, all of a sudden in the middle of the game his number was called and Coach Milo [Ron Milus] and Richard Smith, those guys in the backend, they do a great job making sure that if there’s going to be some injuries that the next guy can come in there and we can still operate at a high level.”