The Las Vegas Raiders are building their coaching staff and added defensive coordinator Patrick Graham Friday night. Graham is highly respected throughout the NFL and brings modern philosophy to NFL coaching.
Graham has spent most of his time climbing the ladder under the Patriot's way. Spending all of his careers under a New England connection, he brings that idea of continued multiplicity week to week.
He then moved on to the Miami Dolphins as the defensive coordinator with Brian Flores. The team struggled early, appearing to be one of the worst defenses of all time. As the season progressed, they improved dramatically, helping the Dolphins get to 5-11.
The former Patriots linebacker coach had an opportunity to return to New York after the season. With the blessing of Brian, Flores, Graham went up north to become the play-caller for the New York Giants defense.
The numbers on Graham don't stand out to most fans because of the raw numbers. However, he has shut down the best QBs the last two seasons. Of the 29 quarterbacks Graham has faced since 2020, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson rank are 22nd and 23rd in passer rating. Brady is 19th, and all of them are below 6.7 YPA.
Wilson's performance has set him back ever since. His game plan was tremendous, forcing the superstar quarterback to throw over the middle of the field while attacking lanes in the offensive line. Game plans like these make you excited for what is to become for the Raiders in the future.
That is the type of coordinator walking into Raiders headquarters. The ability to adapt game plans for specific players will differ from 2021. That adapting can lead to slow starts, which have plagued Graham.
From Week 1-6, the Giants ranked 30th in passing the last two seasons. From Week 6-18, that rises to ninth. The same can be said for scoring. They start at 27.4 and drop to 21.8, ranking 12th in the NFL during that span.
That will be an adjustment for Raider fans with the Patriot way coming into Las Vegas. In his documentary "Man in the Arena," Tom Brady mentioned how they always start slowly to learn how teams play them. A perfect example is the 2-4 New England team that finished 10-7. Fans might be tearing your hair out the first six weeks of the season.
Scheme-wise adapting is the key to the defense deception. While they are primarily a two-high safety defense, the deception Graham uses is the key.
The example below appears to be cover 5, which is man to man with two high safeties. Post-snap, it changes to cover 3, and Bradbury, who is usually a corner, becomes the hook linebacker(Denzel Perryman in Bradley's scheme). The Play almost forces a pick by Mahomes.
Bending, but don't break.
The staple of Belichick defenses is bending, but don't break. Graham follows that philosophy which helps him keep teams to field goals. Raider nation knows this first hand, with the Raiders going 1/6 in the red zone when they played in November.
Of all 32 defenses, only three teams didn't give up more than 100 big plays over 20 yards the past two seasons. The Giants are one of them at 99, and their ability to stop big plays forces teams to play underneath and the red zone game.
The red zone is where Graham shines the brightest. Since 2020 the Giants are 48% in red zone touchdown percentage. The defense has forced teams to kick 48 field goals in that period which is 1st in the NFL.
The Man match scheme becomes a problem in the red zone for most NFL teams, and this style will be an upgrade for the Raiders.
Other cool notes about Graham
- The Giants ranked 20th in blitz percentage at 27 percent according to sports radar last two years. That will be a jump up from Gus Bradley but not a huge one from Guenther.
- The Giants were 6th in missed tackles and one of the eight teams under 100. The Raiders are at 254 by comparison.
- Defensive penalties Graham and the Giants defense were able to avoid having 69 total. We will find out if it was the uniform or not this year.