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Raiders Offseason: Antonio Pierce building his defensive staff

Gerald Alexander, Ricky Manning Jr. just latest example of team bringing in coaches who can relate to players

Pittsburgh Steelers v Las Vegas Raiders
Gerald Alexander is slated to be the Las Vegas Raiders new safeties coach this coming season. The former safety transitioned to coaching and is yet another coach who can relate directly to players, like head coach Antonio Pierce.
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The disconnect that permeated throughout the Las Vegas Raiders locker room during the previous regime was mitigated by Antonio Pierce. Hence why players like Maxx Crosby, Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, and several others expressed their utmost support for Pierce to go from interim head coach to full-time head coach.

Now that Piece is indeed the Raiders official head honcho, it’s no surprise the latest additions to his coaching staff are of similar ilk: Former NFL players turned coaches.

What better way to amplify his own beliefs and philosophy as “the people’s coach” than reportedly adding Gerald Alexander and Ricky Manning Jr. to coach the secondary in Las Vegas.

“I told them, when they walk in this door, I need to feel them. They’re going to feel me 100 percent, but I’ve got to feel them,” Pierce said during his introductory press conference as interim head coach back in early November. “I need that personality. This building needs personality.”

Las Vegas show much more personality after the dismissal of former head coach Josh McDaniels. Pierce showcased his ability to get on the ground level and relate to his players being a former linebacker — and Super Bowl winner — himself and got as much as he could out of the Raiders roster. The additions of Alexander and Manning Jr. — who played safety and cornerback in the NFL, respectively, reinforces that in Las Vegas.

Alexander, a second-round pick out of Boise State back in 2007 by the Detroit Lions, most recently served as the assistant defensive backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers the last two seasons. Before that, he was the defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2020-21 where he endeared himself to players and became a favorite. Alexander’s coaching career also saw him develop defensive backs on the collegiate level both at the University of California (Cal) and Montana State before he moved over to NFL coaching gigs.

  • Gerald Alexander by the numbers: Second-round pick 2007, seven year-career, 44 career games (30 starts), 159 total tackles, four interceptions, 14 pass deflections, two sacks, four fumble recoveries.

In Las Vegas, Alexander has the opportunity to work with starting safeties Marcus Epps (66 total tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery) and Tre’Von Moehrig (83 total tackles, three interceptions, two sacks, and eight passes defensed). The safeties coach also gets to mold and develop younger talent at the position group in Isaiah Pola-Moa (an exclusive rights free agent who, if tendered by the Raiders, must sign or retire) and Chris Smith II (a 2023 fifth-round pick).

Manning, on the other hand, is slated to coach the cornerbacks in Las Vegas. A third-round pick back in the 2003 draft by the the Carolina Panthers, he most recently served as a defensive assistant for the New York Jets (2021-23). Before his stint on the East Coast, Manning was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks (2016-17) and the Fresno City College DB and special teams coach (2013-14).

  • Ricky Manning Jr. by the numbers: Third-round pick 2003, six year-career, 84 career games (38 starts), 272 total tackles, four sacks, 14 interceptions, 33 pass deflections, four sacks, three forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries.

Manning imparting his knowledge and takeaway artist skills he displayed during his playing days to cornerbacks in Las Vegas would be a tremendous boon for the Raiders. Jack Jones, a November waiver claim from the New England Patriots, displayed the requisite aggressiveness and swagger and production to be a thief at cornerback. And Manning sharing the tricks of the trade can make Jones better. Manning is slated to have a hand in developing 2023 draft pick Jakorian Bennett, slot corner Nate Nobbs and Tyler Hall, too.

Expect the Raiders coaching staff to be finalized in the next coming weeks as Pierce continues to build. There are a number of assistants who remain on staff, in particular Jason Simmons, who has the title of defensive backs, pass game coordinator. With Alexander and Manning reportedly joining the Silver & Black, Simmons’ responsibilities going forward will be intriguing. The new duo have specific position groups identified, so Simmons may perhaps be the overarching DB coach and pass game coordinator.

But having a group of coaches that can not only teach and develop, but have grounded intimate knowledge of the game and league which facilitates a streamlined approach to relating to the roster, should prove invaluable. The trio of Simmons, Alexander, and Manning each played in the league before turning to coaching. Simmons was a fifth-round pick in 1998 out of Arizona State (by Pittsburgh Steelers) carving out a 10-year career.