Going into Week 8 of the 2022 season, Divine Deablo was the leading tackler for the Raiders. He secured a career-high nine solo tackles in a loss to the New Orleans Saints, and while the 24-0 defeat was unfortunate to say the least, Deablo was trending in the right direction as the quarterback of the defense.
Then in Jacksonville, Florida, two plays into the game, the linebacker shed his block and went in for a routine tackle on running back Travis Etienne, but came away with an injury.
"I didn't think my arm was broken," Deablo said Tuesday, reflecting on his injury. "The X-ray came and it turned out to be broken. Of course I was down. I was sad. That was two injuries in two years and I knew I was going to miss the rest of the season. But I saw it as an opportunity. I studied the game, I worked harder and this offseason, I stayed [in the Raiders facility] the whole time in hopes that it would work out on the field."
The past seven months have provided him an opportunity to grow as a football player and a person. He vigorously attack rehabilitation, with noticeably more muscle definition in hopes to enact more physicality this upcoming season. He's made quite the transformation since coming to Las Vegas as a rookie, having played strong safety in college. It's warranted a new nickname from defensive coordinator Patrick Graham: "Big Swole."
"[He] walks around looking big swole right now, arms looking big," Graham joked last week. "He's definitely been motivation for me to get in the weight room and try to get my arms up to his level."
Deablo confirmed that he picked up nearly 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason through rehabbing and training, feeling it was a necessary change to take his game to the next level. After coming into OTAs at nearly 240 pounds, he decided to slim down to 234 pounds to feel looser and faster moving around the field. His goal is to maintain at 230-235 pounds throughout the season.
He also finds himself in a different role within the defense. When he went down with his injury, he still felt like a young linebacker in the shadows of veterans such as Pro Bowler Denzel Perryman and Jayon Brown. Now going into his third season, he'll be depended on to be a leading force for the unit. Deablo described himself as "nervous" last year playing in a new system. With a season under his belt with Josh McDaniels and Graham, he's earned their respect.
"I'm really fond of Divine. I think he knows that, and we've given them a lot of responsibility," McDaniels said Tuesday morning. "He's wearing the green dot in practice, which is obviously a role that young players, once they have that on their shoulders, now they're responsible for more than just their job. They have to communicate to everyone else. They have to be alert and aware of situational football because they're essentially the quarterback of the defense once you have that responsibility.
"Divine has grown every literally every week since I've seen him and known him. He works really hard at the game of football. I think he's embraced this year as a year that is a growth year for him, not only on the field in terms of what he does on the field, but also how he can impact others. And I think that's something that you see from him every day."
Get an inside look at the Silver and Black's first day of mandatory minicamp at Intermountain Health Performance Center.