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Competition and chemistry building the identity of the Raiders secondary

Age ain't nothing but a number in the Raiders' defensive backs room this offseason.

Outside of veteran Duron Harmon, the Silver and Black's secondary is relatively young – fielding four starters from last year that are under the of 25. Nevertheless, experience and status won't play a factor come Training Camp when it's time to put on the pads. At the moment, no one has an established starting job in this secondary with new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Everyone is competing for their job.

"The good thing about being here is whether you are a veteran [or] a new guy, the first thing we're preaching is competition," said Jason Simmons, the Raiders' new defensive backs coach and pass game coordinator who played 10 seasons in the NFL. "It is good to have veteran guys in there that have done it before, but everybody knows whether you've played in the league before or fresh out of college, this is going to be an opportunity because this is a new scheme for everybody.

"It's a very unique situation where we are young, but it's fresh for everybody even if you are a veteran or a new guy. Competition is what we're trying to breed in the room."

Johnathan Abram shared similar words Wednesday that reflected the thoughts of Simmons. The safety that has accumulated 207 total tackles as a Raider refuses to rely on his youth or experience to keep his starting safety job from last season.

"I don't think it's about age or youth or any of that. It's just about getting the snaps and the reps together," he said. "Just building the bond, spending time with each other, no matter old or young. You can have a bunch of old guys in one room and if those guys don't come together and build a bond, it really won't work. So, age doesn't really matter."

Despite being a new system, a bond has definitely been built within the secondary. The Silver and Black fielded a top-15 pass defense with rookies Tre’von Moehrig and Nate Hobbs leading the way in the backfield. Hobbs was named a top-10 slot cornerback by Pro Football Focus, with a 78.4 overall grade. Simmons described Hobbs as "a guy that's really physical and a guy that loves football."

Moehrig had a 77.7 coverage grade and played 99 percent of defensive snaps his rookie season. The two defensive backs are hopeful that the chemistry the've created as rookies, along with Abram, Trayvon Mullen Jr. and Amik Robertson, will continue to translate.

"Those guys have been with me since I came in here, and to do this with them is fun," said Moehrig. "We already know each other, know everybody's skillset, so to come in with those guys is fun. To see us encouraging the new guys, encouraging the younger guys – we're going to continue to that."

Among the new guys brought into the Raiders secondary, a highlight brought in by trade acquisition is Rock Ya-Sin. The 26-year-old started 29 games across his time in Indianapolis, with a career-high eight pass deflections last season.

"He is a pro's pro. I love the way he prepares," Simmons said of Ya-Sin. "You can tell he's a guy that loves the game and a guy that wants to get better. So I've really been impressed with him from that standpoint. He's another guy that's a sponge. He wants as much as you can get him. And he's able to take that information and process it."

Of course, it's still early in the process. A lot of football is yet to be played to determine what the secondary will look like this season. But the young corps with playoff experience looks promising – and that's all you can ask for right now.

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