There’s no doubt that the Las Vegas Raiders underperformed against the Los Angeles Chargers in their Week 4 matchup as the Raiders’ playoff hopes have turned into a pipe dream with a 1-3 record. However, the play of safety Tre’von Moehrig in Los Angeles was an encouraging sign for the future of the Silver and Black.
Moehrig played his best game since getting drafted by Las Vegas, earning an elite 90.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus which was the second-highest of any safety for the week and a personal best by about 12 points. Specifically in coverage, his 88.4 grade ranked first at his position and he tied for the most forced incompletions with two.
So, let’s turn to the tape and break down the 2021 second-round pick’s career day.
With 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends) in the game and only one wide receiver in the formation, the Chargers give a heavy run look that forces Moehrig to come down into the box. However, they end up running a play-action pass to try and catch the Raiders off-guard.
But Moehrig isn’t fooled and reads the tight end’s release right away. He also does a good job of avoiding contact with the receiver while working to the flat and recognizing that the tight end is running an out-and-up route. That route going to be tough for Las Vegas to pick up as they’re in Cover 3 and the receiver is occupying the corner/deep third defender with a deep curl route.
So, the safety recognizes this and sticks with his man down the field. He’s sacrificing some size to the 6’4” and 225-pound tight end who tries to box him out. But at the catch point, Moehrig times up his jump perfectly to contest the catch and actually ends up in a better position to make a play on the ball than the receiver who is about four inches taller than him.
Here, it’s third and goal from the 15-yard line and the Raiders run Tampa 2 where Robert Spillane carries the tight end on a seam route. Donald Parham Jr. is 6’8” and one of Justin Herbert’s favorite red zone targets so Herbert rips it to the seam.
But Moehrig does a great job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and jumping Parham’s route. To finish, he goes up and high-points the ball to beat the taller pass-catcher to the ball, get a PBU and force a field goal. Again, he ends up getting to the ball in the air before someone who is much taller than him, negating the size mismatch.
Now, I would like to see him come away with the pick here, but we’ll take the incompletion and third-down stop.
This time, he’s not going to miss an opportunity for an interception!
The Raiders show two-high pre-snap but end up playing Cover 1 post-snap. The pass rush does a good job of closing the pocket and Herbert doesn’t see Allen wide open on the drag route. Instead, he scrambles and tries to throw to Josh Palmer, who is covered pretty well by Amik Robertson.
As a safety, you make your money on tips and overthrows and that’s exactly what Moehrig does as he takes the gift from Herbert, catching it this time, to give the Raiders a chance to make it a one-score game.
The situation here is Las Vegas is down 14 with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter and it’s third and 20. They’re clearly expecting a pass with just five guys in the box but Moehrig senses something is up as he comes down into the box, which isn’t where he’s at his best.
The Chargers end up running inside zone and Moehrig has to take on a block from the center, which is obviously a mismatch for the offense. But, he uses his hands to get extension on the center and is able to get off the block to help make the tackle and get the third down stop.
A heady play and great technique against the run from a guy who is more known for his coverage skills.
We’ll wrap up with another opportunity for the defense to get a stop and keep the team in the game.
The Raiders are in Cover 4 and Herbert starts to scramble as Malcolm Koonce collapses the pocket. Moehrig has excellent eye discipline to key Herbert and still be able to find Palmer on the scramble drill to take Palmer away and force Herbert into a low-percentage throw down the field while on the run.
This is also a good example of him covering people instead of grass too, as he works across the mid-line to pick up a receiver. You won’t see this on the highlight reel at the end of the year, but it’s a quality rep that helps keep the team in the game.