Welcome to Achilles Heels, a new series where we'll be looking at a weakness on every team, and seeing if and how it was addressed going into 2020.
The Team: Las Vegas Raiders (7-9 in 2019)
The Problem: Secondary
The Raiders secondary had a tough year in 2019, clocking in at 30th in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt and Defensive Real Quarterback Rating, and 31st in Defensive Passer Rating. Stopping the pass will be crucial in the AFC West with Patrick Mahomes and the revamped Broncos offense, is the Raider's young secondary up to the task?
There are certainly reasons for optimism. The Raiders have invested a lot of draft capital into the defensive backfield and will hope that bears fruit in 2020. Johnathan Abram, a 2019 first rounder, went down for the season in week one, he is now fully recovered and will reclaim his spot as a starter at strong safety. While Abram did not get to show his abilities much in 2019, the organization is very high on him. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen had a solid rookie year and is expected to man one the cornerback spots. Across from him will likely be Prince Amukamara, a solid if not elite veteran. The other big question mark is 2020 first round pick, Damon Arnette. Arnette is undeniably talented, but frequent questions have been raised about his work ethic and love of football, and he was drafted a good deal earlier than expected. Jon Gruden may not be the NFL's best tactician (more on this later) but he is known for his passion for the game. He will need to reach Arnette and help him reach his potential or this will be another high draft pick wasted. In summation, the young talent is here, but it needs to grow up fast.
The New Problem: Coaching
Gruden's Grinders were dead last in both the Intelligence Index and Scoreability. Yes, that's right, they placed behind offensive gurus like Adam Gase, Jason Garrett, and Freddie Kitchens. Finding a solution to this problem appears difficult, given Gruden's massive contract. The Raiders would be hard pressed to pay another coach, as they would have two coaches on their payroll for seven more years. Hopefully Gruden improves as he spends more time in the modern NFL, but right now this situation appears challenging as the Raiders pack up for Las Vegas.
The Raiders actually have a good deal of young talent. In addition to their pieces in the secondary, they have second year edge player Maxx Crosby, who had 10 sacks as a rookie, and rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs, one of the league's fastest players. His range of outcomes stretch from Tyreek Hill to John Ross. Hopefully their coaching staff helps these young players realize their potential, if not, the transition to Vegas will be bumpier than expected.