Las Vegas Raiders safety Johnathan Abram is viewed as a bit of an x-factor for this defense heading into the 2021 NFL season.
The Raiders had high hopes that Abram could bounce back from a shortened rookie year in 2020. However, it became evident that the former first-round pick was still going through some growing pains at the next level.
Fortunately, reports out of training camp indicate that Abram has since made some tremendous strides in his development. It appears his efforts have not gone unnoticed by head coach Jon Gruden.
Gruden is admittedly excited to watch Abram take that next step going into his third year.
“Very excited,” Gruden said. “I probably watched every snap he had at Mississippi State his last two years. He was injured at the Senior Bowl. I got to meet him a little bit and get to know him a little bit, and really the challenge for John is to stay consistent at a high level. He flashes occasionally, big hits. You see the energy he brings to the field. The key is to do that every snap, 60, 70 snaps a game over 17 weeks and then into the playoffs. And John knows that I’m not saying anything that we haven’t talked about. I think that’s his challenge, is to show everybody that he is that guy for the duration of the season.”
Abram is known for his high motor and hard-hitting approach over the top. This helped him lead the Raiders in total tackles with 86 last season while also securing two interceptions.
Unfortunately, it is evident that the 24-year-old still had a long way to go when it came to coverage. This is an area of weakness that Las Vegas cannot afford to have exploited in a division with talented offenses like the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers.
The Raiders put an emphasis on revamping the secondary with promising, young talent like second-round pick Trevon Moehrig, first-round pick Damon Arnette, and second-round pick Trayvon Mullen. They are still waiting for Abram and Arnette to fit the billing as game-changers over the top.
Las Vegas is hoping that the arrival of Moehrig and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will help pay some dividends for Abram this season. The defense also added another starting-caliber cornerback in Casey Hayward in free agency.
Although this group was an Achilles heel for the Raiders act year, the emergence of players like Abram could finally be a step in the right direction.
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