We have plenty of film on Johnathan Abram that shows he takes good angles and packs a load when he gets to the ball carrier. But what makes a great NFL player is a lot more than that. It’s those intangible things. The things that may not show up on film, but show up in the play of the defense.
Things like smarts, instincts, and leadership. With just 8 OTA practices under their belts, the Raiders pick at 27 overall has already showed he has those intangibles.
“He’s smart. He’s real smart,” Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther said of Abram. “From a rookie player with all the stuff the safeties have to know, he’s on top of it each and every day.”
Middle linebackers get dubbed the quarterback of the defense, but the safeties must line up the secondary as well, which mean they must be vocal. That’s not always easy for a rookie to do as they are still feeling their way around and it can be tough to try tell veterans what to do. Apparently Abram isn’t having those issues.
“As I stand in the back of the defense and I hear him communicate, he doesn’t sound like a rookie player, he sounds like a veteran player out there, so that’s encouraging,” Guenther continued.
Through most of OTA’s, Abram has taken the field with the second team. Tuesday according to at least one observer, he saw some time with the first team alongside Karl Joseph, with Erik Harris playing second team.
Few have filled that role better than Charles Woodson did for three years until his retirement after the 2015 season. Not only is Abram sporting Woodson’s number, he seems to be channeling that swagger. The Raiders gave him a tough number and legacy to follow. “Big expectations, big shoes to fill, that’s what I see,” said Guenther.
Abram doesn’t suffer for confidence. Just ask 8-year veteran linebacker Tahir Whitehead. He came to the Raiders prior to last season and played nearly ever snap on defense. Abram had words for him too.
“I’m always going back and forth with him, he likes to talk a lot,” Whitehead said of Abram. “That’s my guy. I love it. Young guy going in there, you’re coming in and you’re showing how confident you are. I love that because we can build off of that. That’s what we need, we need more guys that are confident in their skillset and then you’re bringing that to the team. That’s going to take us a long way.”
The next open media availability is mandatory minicamp June 11-13. We’ll see at that time if Abram sees more first team work. The Raiders are clearly envisioning him as a starter sooner rather than later.