The Las Vegas Raiders had a high-flying offense in 2021, but their defensive unit struggled to find their way throughout most of the season. They ranked 14th in total defense, 13th against the pass, and 19th against the run.
There’s certainly room for improvement on that side of the ball for the Raiders. However, their defense wasn’t without its bright spots in 2021. Rookie linebacker Divine Deablo really came alive during the team’s playoff push at the end of the season. He started the final five games for Las Vegas, racking up 30 combined tackles and one fumble recovery during that final stretch.
Pro Football Focus had some high praise for the rookie as well, handing him a run-defense grade of 71.8 for the year, the fourth-best mark among rookie linebackers.
Entering his rookie season as an undersized, third-round pick, Deablo had a steep hill to climb in 2021. At just 226 pounds, there were major concerns about Deablo’s ability to effectively fill gaps in the running game at the NFL level. He needed some time to develop during his rookie campaign, but those pre=draft concerns seem like a distant memory at this point.
There are still areas Deablo needs to improve upon in order to take that next step in year two. Against the pass, Deablo was a bit of a liability, allowing a completion percentage of 69.2 percent and a passer rating of 105 when targeted. His PFF pass-coverage grade of 50.6 was significantly lower than both his run-defense and pass rushing grade in 2021.
Nevertheless, Deablo showed some serious promise last year. Based on the Raiders’ offseason moves up to this point, it appears Vegas will be counting on their young talent to pave the way on defense yet again. Deablo and fellow 2021 draftee safety Trevor Moehrig will need to continue their development for the Raiders defense to finally match the production of their offense.