Next week, the Las Vegas Raiders will begin the preseason slate when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday in Canton, Ohio.
As an expected starter, linebacker Divine Deablo may not play much if at all against the Jaguars. Yet, it will mark a significant memory for Deablo as he works to improve upon a solid rookie season. It was his first preseason experience last year that opened the eyes of the 2021 third-round pick. making the transition as a safety in college at Virginia Tech to linebacker in the NFL, Deablo knew he was stepping up a huge level, whether it as the first preseason game or not.
“I feel pretty comfortable, more comfortable than I was last year, I got whooped,” Deablo said this week. “Especially the first preseason game against the 49ers. But ever since then I’ve been stepping up, like I said earlier, just to improve every day. That’s my goal ... It was definitely an NFL moment for me. I realized I had to work a lot harder than I was. Grind more, study more and that’s what I continue to do to this day.”
While Deablo, who began training camp late as a rookie because of an injury, is clearly focusing on getting better on the field and in the weight room, the truth is, he came a long way as a rookie. After barely getting defensive playing time early, Beginning in Week 12, Deablo started playing extensively at linebacker and flashed in nearly every game down the stretch. he was a big part of an improved defense that played a key role in Las Vegas winning their four final games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.
In total, Deablo had 45 tackles as a rookie. The new coaching staff is counting on Deablo to continue to make strides and to play a big role on the defense.
Deablo is not counting on anything. He knows he has to continue to earn his role.
“I love the new defensive coaching staff. It’s a lot of stuff they put in. They put us in a great spots and I’m excited for it,” he said. “I’m really excited. First, I got to prove it out there on the field. I got to earn my spot. But I’m excited. I’m still new to the linebacker position. I’m trying to grow every day, improve every day, and that’s my only goal.”
Unlike that first preseason game, this year, though, Deablo has to know he belongs.