The Las Vegas Raiders haven't locked in their starting roster yet, but a majority of the positions on offense and defense are self-explanatory; however, safety is possibly the biggest question mark.
In 2019, General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden were adamant about adding a hard-hitting playmaker in the secondary, so they drafted Johnathan Abram in the first round of the NFL draft. Unfortunately, the duo was unable to unleash Abram his rookie season because of a season-ending injury he sustained Week 1 against the Denver Broncos.
With last year serving as a medical redshirt, Abram had the opportunity to watch and learn defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's scheme from the sideline, but the expectation is he'll be ready to execute it in 2020 and with a new teammate by his side.
This offseason, Gruden and Mayock added safeties Jeff Heath and Damarious Randall after the departure of former Raider Karl Joseph, providing a veteran presence next to the young and hungry Abram. Wednesday afternoon, Mayock joined ESPN Las Vegas for the Athletes Doing Good Radiothon and shed some light on the Randall signing.
"When I was back in television, doing the draft rankings and everything, I had [Damarious Randall] ranked as the No. 1 free safety coming out of college football that year," Mayock said. "He had played a lot of corner and people were split on where he should play in the NFL. When I called him for the first time in the offseason about signing him as a free agent, the first thing I did was remind him to go check my old college ranking and see where I had him. He started laughing and said, 'Mayock I know exactly where you had me, that's why we're on the phone right now.'"
Mayock had Randall ranked higher than Landon Collins (No. 2), Shaq Thompson (No. 3), Quinten Rollins (No. 4), and Jaquiski Tartt (No. 5), and even though Collins has appeared in more Pro Bowls, Randall has outproduced him in interceptions and passes defensed.
The 27-year-old defensive back has played for the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns over his five seasons in the league, totaling 14 interceptions and 47 passes defensed across 56 starts. Mayock hopes that he can bring a unique level of athleticism to the Raiders and form a dynamic one-two punch with Abram.
"What I believe is that he could be a wonderful complement to John Abram," Mayock shared. "We're going to pair [Abram] with Damarious and Erik Harris, and we think Damarious can bring some athletic ability where he can drop down and cover the slot. So, we think there's a potential pairing there that could be exciting, but don't forget about Erik Harris, he's played some good football for us. We signed Jeff Heath who started for the Dallas Cowboys, so again, this is all about creating competition throughout our team and especially on defense."
The Raiders' secondary will feature a handful of new faces this season, so finding synergy and consistency early will be key to the unit's success. On paper, the team has vastly improved the defensive side of the ball and they needed to in order to compete in one of the most offensively gifted divisions.
Get a look at new Raiders safety Damarious Randall in action. During his five-year career with both the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns, Randall totaled 290 combine tackles, 14 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns, and 2 fumble recoveries.