Linebacker Divine Deablo put together an excellent performance in the Las Vegas Raiders’ season opener with an elite 90.7 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. However, Deablo has regressed in the team’s two games since then, culminating with a 42.2 mark in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which ranked 60th out of 65 qualifying linebackers.
The three-year veteran was targeted three times during the evening, allowing all three throws to go for completions and 44 yards in total. To make matters worse, those passes accounted for one touchdown and two first downs, meaning the Steelers got an impact play every time they threw Deablo’s way.
So, let’s dive into the tape and see where the linebacker went wrong to add some context to the numbers above.
To Deablo’s credit, this is a tough rep as the Steelers run play-action and catch the Raiders playing Cover 3 with George Pickens running an in route behind the linebackers. But, Deablo comes a little too far downhill against the run fake and is a little late to transition in coverage, leaving Kenny Pickett with a big window to hit Pickens.
Also, Deablo’s initial angle on his drop is too flat when he opens his hips and his first step is down the 20-yard line. Personally, I’d like to see him either backpedal and keep his eyes on the quarterback to get depth and potentially make a play on the ball, or turn 180 degrees and ROBOT so that he can close on Pickens faster.
Again, this is a hard play for any linebacker to make, but look at the difference between Deablo and Robert Spillane as Spillane has a decent shot a making this play.
This rep is probably the worst and most inexcusable one we’ll see.
Las Vegas calls Cover 4 and Deablo is the middle hook defender and the tight end—Pat Freiermruth—runs a hook route over the middle of the field. However, the linebacker has his eyes in the backfield and doesn’t even turn his head to locate Freiermuth, leaving a wide-open receiver right over the top of the ball.
The endzone view shows Deablo doing a good job of reading the releases of the running back and slot receiver, but he has to be better at keeping his head on a swivel when the back and receiver don’t come to his area. He never even sees Freiermuth until it’s too late.
Deablo clearly had a tough time against play-action on Sunday. Here, the Raiders are in man coverage this time and he comes too far downhill again on the run fake. What makes this even more frustrating is his man, Freiermuth again, doesn't even try to block/sell the run.
But once Deablo bites on the fake, it’s a foot race to the end zone and it’s tough for the linebacker to win when he puts himself in a bad position, having to play chase from two steps behind his man. The result is an easy pitch and catch for six points.
He struggled against play-action this week as he left tight end Darnell Washington open later in the game against a similar play call, Washington just didn’t the ball.
Now, I have to inject some positivity in here and this was a nice rep by our subject.
Las Vegas shows man coverage against the pre-snap motion from Pittsburgh. Post-snap, Deablo sees the running back work across the formation on the ball fake, so he knows he can pass the back off to Spillane and be aggressive to help his teammates in coverage.
From there, he reads the screen and uses his speed and athleticism to defeat the guard’s block in space and make a beautiful tackle right at the line of scrimmage. Well done!
Divine Deablo ducks inside and almost blocks himself pic.twitter.com/j71Y4Y42tA— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) September 25, 2023
We’ve been focusing on reps in coverage but I also wanted to go over a few reps against the run as Deablo wasn’t as bad versus the ground game but did post a sub-par 58.6 PFF grade in that department.
With the run action to his side, Deablo’s primary responsibility is the play-side B-gap. However, the motion creates a numbers advantage for the offense and gets him to cheat toward his secondary assignment, the back-side A-gap.
Initially, he does a good job of working outside to the B-gap, but then he ducks inside the guard and essentially ends up blocking himself. He was likely trying to play to the back-side A-gap, but that wasn’t necessary as Byron Young (No. 93, the left defensive tackle) holds up the offensive linemen and plugs the A-gap with the guard.
Also, Deablo ends up chest-to-chest with the lineman blocking him, and Pittsburgh runs right through his gap for a nine-yard gain.
This is a few plays later and a similar rep, only this time Deablo doesn’t even need to play the strong side A-gap as the Steelers don’t have a numbers advantage and that’s Spillane’s responsibility. However, Deablo ducks inside and ends up chest-to-chest with the offensive lineman again, leading to a six-yard gain.
Now, I will say that John Jenkins gets blown off the ball by the double team so Deablo might be thinking that he needs to be inside overcompensate. But that’s what Spillane is there for and Jenkins ends up doing a decent job of recovering. This is a one- or two-yard rush if Deablo fits into his gap properly.