The Las Vegas Raiders brought in a host of new defensive players this offseason, but maybe the biggest addition is the guy who’s gonna have to put it all together – defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
Gus Bradley was hired as defensive coordinator after leading the Los Angeles Chargers defense for the past four seasons. He takes over for Paul Guenther, whom they let go after the Raiders finished 30th in the league in points allowed, giving up 29.9 points per game last season.
“Well, I think it was tough (last season) because of some of the things going through last year with COVID,” Bradley said. “And I’ve got a lot of respect for Paul [Guenther] and what he does defensively. We had great conversations, so I really look at this team as, ‘Alright, here’s where they’re at’ and it’s our job to build on what was already taking place.
“So, I think there is some good young talent. We’re very impressed with them. I think that as far as the overall group, obviously we drafted some players on the defensive side, so creating more depth and creating more competition within. But like I said, I’ve been pretty impressed with their skill set and how they pick things up.”
The Raiders defense has been a trouble spot for the past three seasons, and one of Bradley’s roles is to change that culture. He believes that begins with trusting each other.
“Trust is just understanding where everybody is going to be and that they’re on the same page,” he said. “A lot of explosive plays come through busts on defense, and we got to try and eliminate as many of those busts as possible, and it comes through great communication. So, that part of it we’re building. When you have success, learning how to handle success and it’s really play-after-play coming out of it. So, it’s really a race to maturity with our whole group.”
Familiar faces on defense for Gus Bradley
But Gus Bradley won’t have to do it alone. The Raiders brought in defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. to help bolster the defense. Bradley has a lot of familiarity with Ngakoue as he was in Jacksonville when Bradley was head coach there.
“The thing that’s really crazy to me is that he’s the same guy,” Ngakoue said. “If not, he has way more energy. He always was a high-energy guy, a guy that’s personable, a great coach and unfortunately in Jacksonville we didn’t do what we were supposed to do to keep him there. But here, he’s just putting us in great positions to make plays and allow us to be free. That’s a guy that loves the game, brings passion every day no matter what’s going on in his life. He’s always going to have a smile on his face.”
Gus Bradley: ‘Playing fast’ is a key to creating turnovers
Bradley said once the players get comfortable and know the system, they’ll have to think a little less and start playing faster, which will lead to more turnovers.
“So, the ability to create more takeaways, it really starts with the mindset to go after the ball,” he said. “And I think when you see a team doing it, they’re playing pretty fast and that’s our objective; fast, physical and ball out. That’s what we’re preaching to our guys: fast, physical and ball out. Over and over, every play. Every call that is designed to get the ball out and to keep preaching that to them.”
Gus Bradley and his defense will be under the spotlight when camp begins late next month in Henderson.