Early in the offseason and well before the team signed Marcus Peters, it was pretty clear the Las Vegas Raiders were looking to add defenders who can create turnovers. Head coach Josh McDaniels said as much during the NFL Combine when talking about what type of players he’s looking for on that side of the ball.
Now that everyone is in the building for training camp, that message continues to be reinforced as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham shared his message to his unit with the media after last Thursday’s practice.
“On defense, we talk about defending the field, defending the situations, but it’s also about being disruptive. And the number one way to disrupt is to have turnovers,” Graham explained.
“So, obviously, it’s one of the main emphasis points we make, it’s something that we know we have to work on every day. Coach [McDaniels] is giving us plenty of opportunities in terms of periods and practice to be able to work it. So, we’re going to try to instill it in everybody. You want a defense that’s looking for the ball.”
The Raiders are coming off a season where they tied for the fewest interceptions in the league with just six and their 10 forced fumbles ranked tied for 27th. That’s a big reason why they were in the bottom quarter of the NFL in points allowed and creating turnovers has been such a big point of emphasis over the last several months.
However, the five free-agent defensive backs Las Vegas signed earlier in the offseason combined for just seven interceptions and two forced fumbles in 21 collective seasons. Hence the need for a veteran ball hawk in the secondary like Peters, who has 32 career picks and 11 forced fumbles in eight years.
That should help fix one of the Raiders' biggest defensive problems as the unit’s leader weighed in on what the new corner can bring to the team.
“Well, [Peters] knows more than anybody just having experience in the league that each year is different, and you’ve got to prove yourself each year. I know he’s excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about working with him and obviously, what he’s done in the past,” Graham said.
“Haven’t seen him on film but [I’ve] been on teams where offensive coaches are aware of where he’s at. So, it’s definitely a positive to have that type of ball-hawking mentality. But we’re just working and he’s excited about the opportunity and I’m excited to work with him.”
Peters’ arrival should yield better results and thus, higher expectations for Las Vegas’ defense. His veteran leadership and pedigree should help motivate everyone else on the roster to step their game up, and the defensive coordinator is using goals to help reinforce that message. Unsurprisingly, one of their most important measuring sticks will be creating turnovers.
“Usually when you talk to these guys, they’re driven by goals, right? ...And if you show them, like, whether it’s statistically, or just showing them how this correlates to winning, turnovers and takeaways, it correlates to winning,” Graham explained.
“And you’ve got a room full of guys that want to win, so you tell them how important it is, and then we work on it. And then if you’re going to emphasize it, if you’re going to say something about it, you got to emphasize it at practice and in the meetings.”
The Raiders have notoriously struggled to create those momentum-changing defensive plays over the last several years, so hopefully, Peters’ presence and Graham’s messaging makes a difference in 2023. We’ll find out soon enough.