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2023 Position Breakdown: Defensive Backs

Position Breakdown_2023_DB

Entering 2023 Training Camp, will preview every position group and evaluate the players who will potentially make up the 53-man roster. Take a dive into a defensive backs unit hungry to prove themselves.

The best ability is availability. Free-agent signee Marcus Epps has certainly been available as of late.

Epps is coming off a Super Bowl appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles, starting all 20 regular season and playoff games. He's expected to step in at strong safety for the Raiders, having totaled 70 solo tackles and six pass deflections last year.

A few other notable signings in the secondary along with Epps are Brandon Facyson, David Long Jr. and Duke Shelley. Facyson returns to the Silver and Black after spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts. The 6-foot-2 outside cornerback was signed off the Los Angeles Chargers practice squad in 2021, and proceeded to lead the team in pass deflections (13).

Long spent the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, winning a Super Bowl with them in 2021. He has a career 77 total tackles and seven pass deflections in 52 games. Shelley is coming off a career season with the Minnesota Vikings, totaling eight pass deflections and an interception while earning an 84.9 pass coverage grade from Pro Football Focus.

The Raiders also acquired safety Jaquan Johnson, who played four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Last season, he appeared in 16 games with three starts, totaling 16 solo tackles and a pass deflection.

Jakorian Bennett and Chris Smith II were 2023 fourth and fifth-round draft picks, and could find ways to make an immediate impact. Bennett has impressed the locker room with his speed and aggressive manner on the field in early offseason workouts. Speed is rightfully a standout quality of his after running a 4.30 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Unrecruited coming out of high school, Bennett had five interceptions and 24 pass deflections in his career at the University of Maryland – with a Duke's Mayo Bowl MVP Award to his name.

Smith was a two-time national champion at the University of Georgia, playing a substantial role on one of the most dominant defenses in college football history. The All-American safety totaled 45 solo tackles, five pass deflections and three interceptions his senior season.

The other rookie additions in the secondary are rounded out by UDFA signings Jordan Perryman, Jaydon Grant and Azizi Hearn. All were standouts in the Pac-12.

Perryman was a First Team All-Big Sky selection at UC Davis before transferring to Washington his senior season. Jaydon Grant, the son of 12-year NBA veteran Brian Grant, was an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection at Oregon State. Hearn split time between Arizona, Wyoming and UCLA, finishing his collegiate career with 146 total tackles and 21 pass deflections.

Among the returning defensive backs on the roster, Amik Robertson is the longest tenured as the Raiders' fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His third NFL season was his best to date, playing all 17 games with seven starts. He reached career-highs in solo tackles (29), pass deflections (nine) and interceptions (two).

Nate Hobbs and Tre'von Moehrig are coming off injury-filled sophomore seasons. They both became starters as rookies in 2021, and played pivotal roles in the Raiders' playoff appearance. Both are likely to benefit from the signing of Epps and competition surrounding the defensive backs room. The duo had a combined nine pass deflections in 2022.

Sam Webb and Isaiah Pola-Mao were two of four rookie UDFA signings to make the initial 53-man roster last season. Both made their presence felt in the preseason, and continued to evolve their roles throughout the regular season.

Webb, the former Division II star from Missouri Western, started three games as a rookie with 26 solo tackles, three pass deflections and a 75.2 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. Pola-Mao was initially a special teams coverage player that earned snaps as a box safety toward the end of the season.

Tyler Hall emerged as one of the most productive players on the defense after first being signed to the practice squad last October. The former Los Angeles Ram made the most of his opportunities in Las Vegas after being elevated to the active roster Week 11 against the Denver Broncos. He didn't allow a single touchdown in seven games played while recording four pass deflections and an 86.9 overall defensive grade from Pro Football Focus. It's not impossible to envision Hall earning a starting role through working during Training Camp.

Roderic Teamer signed with the Silver and Black in 2021 after spending the 2019 season playing for Los Angeles Chargers. He's become a versatile piece in the defense, also seeing action on special teams. He had a career-tying 40 total tackles in 2022.

Ike Brown and Bryce Cosby return after spending 2022 on the Raiders practice squad. Brown formerly played for the New Orleans breakers in the USFL, totaling 16 tackles (eight solo) and two interceptions. Cosby was a UDFA from Ball State, where he was an All-Mid-American Conference First Team selection.

View photos of the Las Vegas Raiders defensive backs heading into 2023 Training Camp.

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