Late last week new Las Vegas Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley raised some eyebrows when he said there would be “open competition” at both safety spots in training camp.
Bradley added that there would be “especially” competition at free safety.
It had long been assumed that 2019 first-round pick Johnathan Abram would start at strong safety, and second-round pick rookie Tre’von Moehrig would start at free safety.
Below is the interview Bradley conducted with JT The Brick, a friend of this site:
"He's been a great addition."— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) June 11, 2021
New DC Gus Bradley likes what he's seeing during OTAs. Listen ⬇️
Let’s break down what Bradley’s words may mean:
From listening to Bradley, I didn’t get the vibe that this is a major deal. It’s a coach saying what he is supposed to say. Coaches live for competition. So I wouldn’t read a lot into it.
Can’t just hand job to a rookie:
Bradley might not want Moehrig to think he is the set-in-stone starter three months before his NFL career actually starts. He may want to keep the rookie hungry. The reality, though, is that the Raiders didn’t have a true starting free safety one second prior to drafting Moehrig. He’s the guy, but he will have to show he earned it. At other points in the interview with JT, Bradley was highly complimentary of the TCU product.
Abram can be in trouble:
Abram may have to prove he is worthy of being the starter in Bradley’s mind. The truth is, there is no way Bradley should say there is open competition at Abram’s spot going after being a first-round pick two years ago. Abram, who missed all but one game as a rookie, struggled in 2020. He showed a major lack of on-field discipline, he often took poor angles on tackle attempts and he suffered in coverage. If Abram doesn’t improve quickly, he could lose playing time. One name to keep an eye on is fourth-round pick Tyree Gillespie. He is turning heads on the coaching staff and the Missouri product could take Abram’s role if the young veteran struggles.
It’s early. Things will shake themselves out in training camp and the preseason. Once again, having competition is a good thing. In the end, I’d be shocked if Moehrig isn’t the starting free safety. We’ll have to wait and see about Abram at strong safety.