The past two weeks we’ve heard the coaches and leaders on this Raiders team preaching gap discipline in the run defense. Insisting the issues stopping the run stem from trying to do too much. Never more prevalent is that propensity than in undrafted rookies who are pushing to make an impression and earn a roster spot.
“[Veterans] like big Jelly [Justin Ellis] really be on me about ‘stay in your gap, the play will come to you’,” said undrafted rookie defensive tackle Darius Latham. “Don’t try to half gap too early, play your gap and everything will take care of itself.”
“Coming out of college, sometimes you get into freelance mode, you want to just make plays, be a hero, but you don’t gotta do that, you know. Team defense.”
Knowing that makes it all the more impressive that Darius Latham has been the Raiders best looking rookie player as well as being considered the best rookie defensive tackle this preseason by Pro Football Focus.
That was the opinion of Latham even before Thursday night’s preseason finale in which Latham had his best performance to date, finishing third on the team with 5 tackles (4 solo) with a tackle for loss and a pass batted down at the line.
The rookie out of Indiana has been impressing his Raiders coaches from day one of the offseason. He came in with something to prove as a player who many thought should have been drafted – himself included.
“I felt like things held me back and I should have been drafted,” said Latham. “I definitely play with a chip on my shoulder.”
Even with his NFL future hanging in the balance every time he hit the field, Latham has an easy going approach to his duties, saying “football is football”.
With the way he’s been playing it lately, he should be getting a lot more chances to do so for the Raiders.