Starters: Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph
Backups: Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani, Keith McGill, Erik Harris
Free agents: Reggie Nelson, Keith McGill
Nelson has started every game for the Raiders the past two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2016 with 5 interceptions, but had just one last season. His passes defended dropped considerably as well from what he had been averaging 10 passes defended per season in his career. He had half that (5) last season.
Joseph was expected to step up in his second NFL season after playing a little tentative as a rookie due to his recovery from a torn ACL. That didn’t really happen. Though with the overall problems the secondary had, it’s hard not to think coaching played a major role. The secondary played better overall after week 11 when Ken Norton Jr was fired. Most notably, they finally had their first interception. Joseph was the first Raiders DB to intercept a pass last season. It came in week 14 against the the Chiefs.
Second round rookie Melifonwu was drafted with hopes of seeing him play a hybrid strong safety/linebacker role. Primarily his job would be to lock down the opposing team’s tight end. An injury upended those hopes and sent him to injured reserve. When he came off IR after week eight, they started him at cornerback. That was a mistake. The following week he was relegated to special teams after that and then re-injured himself five games in and was lost for the rest of the season.
Seventh round rookie Luani showed a lot of promise in the offseason through preseason, but played almost solely on special teams the entire season. He would get one start in week eight in Buffalo and the rookie mistakes were pretty glaring.
McGill’s rookie deal is up and he will likely move on. Harris is a special teams maven and a pretty good one.
With Reggie Nelson turning 35 before next season, he figures to leave as a free agent. That would seem to destabilize the position, but I don’t think it does. The team drafted Obi Melifonwu in round two last year to prepare for Nelson’s departure. They also have Karl Joseph and a very promising young player in Shalom Luani. They could move Joseph to free safety (and should), put Melifonwu at strong safety, and have Luani for depth. After that, maybe add a low tier free agent or a late round draft pick and be set.
What condition do you think the Raiders safety position is in?
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