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Divine Deablo makes smooth transition to linebacker

Where Tanner Muse failed, Deablo succeeded

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Muse was a surprising third-round pick back in 2020. A section of fans was excited for the so-called special team's war daddy to make an impact. The selection had the vision of turning a safety into an every-down linebacker while he contributed to the kicking game.

Well, it didn't turn out how they foresaw. Muse struggles with injuries, and transitioning to linebacker left him on the cutting room floor after the 2021 training camp. He did not play a single snap for the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

In last year's draft, the Raiders decided to run it back and attempt the conversion a second time. The highly athletic but oversized for a modern safety from Virginia Tech caught the eye of Gus Bradley. Divine Deablo was the selection with the hopes of developing into a starting NFL linebacker.

Deablo did not get much playing time early on. On the depth chart, Cory Littleton was the starting linebacker with Nick Kwiatkoski in front of him. When the injuries piled up at the position, Deablo got his shot and never looked back.

He was starting linebacker from Week 13 to the end of the season. Where you worried about the transition was playing the run inside the box. It left Muse as an easily replaceable player, but Deablo did not have that issue.

Deablo exhibited that he could become one of the best-run defenders in the league. He led all the 2021 rookie NFL linebackers in missed tackle percentage with 3.4 vs. the run.

A perfect example is below in one of his better performances in run defense. The offense wants to get the ball to Joe Mixon running split zone during the wildcard matchup vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. Deablo understands his responsibility is the weakside b gap and creeps up after the snap initially. He recognizes its split zone quickly and returns to the weak side A gap to make the tackle for a short gain.

He even displays discipline as a run defender, as in this example vs. the Broncos. He doesn't over pursue his gap and plays the cutback. Deablo was in the perfect position to ensure that was not an option for the runner.

This type of play from a safety converting to linebacker is rare in year one. However, His coverage skills and zone recognition are a work in progress. As you can see below, he can exhibit the traits to play man, hanging with Tee Higgins. He recognizes the route combination, quickly jumping the route and sticking with Higgins helping to force the sack.

There are big misses as well. Against the Broncos, he has responsibility for the crosser while playing the hook linebacker in cover 3. Deablo doesn't realize Jerry Jeudy is running a crosser and lets him run right by him in coverage. It leads to a massive play for the Broncos' offense.

Even with those issues, there was more positive than negative with Deablo in the starting lineup. He helped a Raiders defense finish second in 3rd down conversion percentage during Weeks 15-18. Also, after the Washington loss in Week 13, he hit the podium to display his leadership skills.

Deablo has put out plenty of films to keep the Raiders from hunting for a starting linebacker at the will. Free-agent Jayon Brown was brought in as a depth piece but did not display the ability to play the run with more experience as a front seven defender. Deablo is a reason for fans to be excited about the future of the Raiders defense.