clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raiders training camp 2023: Patrick Graham energized by youth

Lots of new faces on Las Vegas’ defense

NFL Combine
Christopher Smith at the combine
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

One of the most important figures for the Las Vegas Raiders as they enter training camp is second year defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Graham came to Las Vegas with a strong reputation, but he didn’t have success changing the fortune of the Raiders’ defense, which has been lacking for several years. Getting improved defensive play is critical for Graham in 2023. He recently spoke to media members on several topics.

Here are some of the highlights:

Graham coached in the Senior Bowl in January and the Raiders added several players from the game. Graham loves the new additions:

”The beauty of the Senior Bowl, and I’m really appreciative that Dave [Ziegler] and Josh [McDaniels] recommended me for that, and also guys down there at the Senior Bowl selected me to do that,” Graham said. “You got a jumpstart on the process; you got a chance to coach in real life and you got to see how the guys reacted. And for most of the guys that I was around, and at some point during the week I was around all the guys, they were real receptive to coaching. They worked hard. It was a week-long process, and you’re seeing that same attitude, that same work ethic out here on the field. Smart, tough, dependable players, that’s what you’re trying to build a team around. And they showed some of that when we were with them for a short period of time. So, they’re just working on it. But, again, they’re rookies. They don’t know what they don’t know yet. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now, and they’re probably swimming a little bit, but they’re learning and working hard.”

Thoughts on rookie safety Christopher Smith:

“Okay, so I’m a front guy. So, I might say the linebacker is the quarterback of the defense, but I’ll go with that, I’ll go with that one right now. But Chris Smith, I mean, same things you saw at Georgia, just playing at a high level there. I mean, this guy, he’s smart, he works hard, he’s diligent in terms of details, in terms of how he studies,” Graham said. “Chris is doing a good job of keeping building each day with him, giving him more and more, and he’s able to handle that. And you see obviously the athletic ability, the ability to get to the ball, all that stuff that you saw on tape. And now he’s just transferring that to the next level. And again, like most rookies, they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s a different level of competition. He’s working on it every day, but he’s in here all the time working.”

On a crowded group at defensive tackle:

“The beauty of how the roster is constructed right now from Dave [Ziegler], Champ [Kelly], Brandon [Yeargan] helping with the college stuff, and Josh’s vision, it’s competitive at all the spots. I love it. I mean, we talk about communication, discipline, effort; competition is part of that too, and competition that’s going to bring out the best in all of us. I think it’s evident in the D-line room,” Graham said. “It’s evident in all three levels of our defense right now. None of the coaches are going to complain about having a lot of good players competing for a spot because you’re going to get the best, and the competition started somewhat during the spring. It’s not