Gus Bradley will be a huge boost to the Raiders’ defense in 2021. Here’s what you can expect to see from Las Vegas next season.
Credit the Raiders for taking a big step towards solving their defensive issues. The hiring of Gus Bradley as the team’s new defensive coordinator should pay big dividends for Las Vegas right away.
Bradley was most recently employed by the Chargers in the same position before he lost his job when Anthony Lynn was let go by Los Angeles. The Raiders made sure he didn’t stay unemployed for long. They moved quickly to secure his services in plenty of time to give him input in the team’s offseason personnel moves.
Part of his appeal to the Raiders organization is his ability to work well with the team’s current defensive personnel. Some fans in Las Vegas might have wanted to see a coach with a more aggressive scheme hired, but Bradley’s more conservative approach is a better fit with the players already on the Raiders roster.
What will the Raiders’ defensive scheme look like?
This group will not blitz very often. Instead, Bradley will put a lot of pressure on the team’s front four to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. That probably means the Raiders need to put an emphasis on improving their talent at defensive end this offseason.
Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, Arden Key all have some talent, but Bradley could benefit massively from the addition of one top-flight pass rusher to the group.
The real genius of the Bradley hire comes with his ability to get the most out of Las Vegas’ talented group of safeties. Johnathan Abram should blossom playing in his new coach’s usual cover-3 setup. He’s got more than enough quickness to excel when patrolling the deep third of the field.
It will also be interesting to see how Bradley utilizes LaMarcus Joyner next season. He played most of his snaps in 2020 as the team’s third corner, but he’s arguably better suited to play as a free safety in a coverage-based system. Sliding him back to safety could pay big dividends for Las Vegas in 2021.
Will the defense improve?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” Bradley will come right in and help this defense go from awful to something approaching average right away. The real question is just how much he can get out of this group of players.
Expecting the Raiders to suddenly forge a top-5 defense is unrealistic. Expecting them to flirt with a top-10 finish in DVOA is ambitious, but possible. Most importantly, Bradley should improve this defense’s competency to the point that the Raiders can seriously mount a playoff push in 2021.