2019 Position Review: Safeties

MORE POSITION REVIEWS: Quarterbacks

The 2019 Position Reviews kicked off with the quarterbacks and continues with the safeties.

More than any other position on the roster (possibly a tie with the wide receivers), the safety position experienced more turnover in the last six months than any other season I can recall in recent memory. Johnathan Abram got hurt after his first career game, Karl Joseph suffered a season-ending injury halfway through the year, and Daryl Worley started seeing reps at the position later in the season.

Those are just a few reasons why this position review should be interesting, so without further ado, let's get started.

Overview:

Entering the 2019 season, the front office and coaching staff knew they needed to improve in the back end of the defense if they wanted to take a step forward as a team.

First, General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden signed a handful of versatile defensive backs with safety experience during free agency. The biggest splash was Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a four-year deal, and was accompanied by Curtis Riley, and the team brought back Erik Harris after signing him to an extension as well

Second, the Raiders used one of their three first-round picks to select Johnathan Abram No. 27 overall and bolster the safety position. Abram showed a lot of upside during training camp and the limited reps he saw during the preseason, but his season came to a premature end due to a year-ending shoulder injury.

Injuries were truly the biggest reason for all the turnover at the safety position this year; Abram was done after Week 1, Karl Joseph was finished midway through the year, and Lamarcus Joyner struggled to stay healthy with a calf issue most of the season. These injuries paved the way for guys like D.J. Swearinger to come in off the street and try to pick up the slack, but after not participating in minicamp, training camp, and much of the year, it prevented him from having a solid grasp of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system.

With open spots available, guys like Erik Harris – who led the team with four interceptions – Curtis Riley, and Dallin Leavitt stepped in to show the coaching staff what talent they possess. It'll be interesting to see how the team addresses this position in the offseason.

Number to Know:

Eight.

The Raiders had eight players play safety for them this year: Curtis Riley, Dallin Leavitt, D.J. Swearinger, Johnathan Abram, Daryl Worley, Lamarcus Joyner, and Erik Harris – goodness gracious.

Heading into next season, the Raiders will certainly try to make health a priority at this position (and every position) in order to avoid the depth issues they suffered late in the year.

Entering 2020…

Johnathan Abram – Under Contract

Lamarcus Joyner – Under Contract

Erik Harris – Under Contract

Dallin Leavitt – Exclusive-Rights Free Agent

Curtis Riley – Unrestricted Free Agent

Karl Joseph – Unrestricted Free Agent

Daryl Worley – Unrestricted Free Agent

During this week's episode of "Upon Further Review," Eddie Paskal and I wondered what the Raiders would do with Karl Joseph.

Joseph and Worley have both been in Guenther's system for two years now, and when healthy, each provided a veteran presence in the secondary. It will all come down to dollars and cents, but I hope the team can bring both players back, as they've proven to be reliable contributors.

One might expect the Raiders to take a safety in the 2020 NFL Draft, but after taking Abram last year and having Harris and Joyner under contract I think it's more likely they try to sign someone in free agency.

Position Group MVP:

In my humble opinion, he's the most underrated player in the AFC West and is someone that will do anything that's asked of him.

My position group MVP is Erik Harris.

The former employee of a potato chip factory has continued to see an increased role during his three years with the Raiders. After starting four games in 2018, Harris started 14 games in 2019 and played all 16 games. He set career highs in interceptions (3), touchdowns (2), passes defensed (8), and tackles (68). One could make the argument that Erik Harris should've been in the Pro Bowl debate, but all that matters is that his teammates and coaches value his importance.

Check out the best photos of all the Raiders' touchdowns during the 2019 season.

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