The 2018 Raiders have one of the worst defenses the league has ever seen. They are last in the league in yards allowed per play with 6.8. That’s one of the worst marks of all time. They are also having difficulty getting off the field on third down, and are 30th in the NFL in allowing third down conversions, at a 48.51% clip. That’s pretty abysmal, and a lot of it has to do with poor safety play.
When asked on Friday if Gruden felt the Raiders were getting enough from the safeties, Gruden responded, “We need more. Coverage, in the box presence, tackling, prohibiting and eliminating big plays. We need more from that group. I think we are going to continue to try and get the right combination of men out there and hopefully improve.”
Safety has been a consistent problem for the Raiders going back over a decade. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch were fairly solid as a safety tandem, and then Charles Woodson in his second stint with the Raiders was one of the best playmaking safeties in the league, but it’s been a while since the Raiders had elite play at safety.
Currently, the Raiders are trotting out some combination of Marcus Gilchrist, Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph and Erik Harris. Joseph should be the best of the bunch as a former first-round pick, but his size limits his effectiveness and he hasn’t been in the best graces of the coaching staff. Reggie Nelson is a coach favorite, but has performed poorly this season with his lack of speed and being out of position. For a guy who is on this team because he knows the defense, he sure hasn’t been playing like it.
The Raiders absolutely have to sink some resources into the safety position this coming offseason. There will be several premier safeties available in free agency including Lamarcus Joyner, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins. Also, there are some good safeties in the 2019 Draft including Alabama’s Deionte Thompson. Of course, no matter how many players or of what quality the Raiders sign, they will have to coach them up and fit them into the system. Considering most players this year have regressed under this coaching staff, that’s a lot to wish for.