MORE POSITION REVIEWS:Quarterbacks
Overview:The biggest question for the Oakland Raiders safeties in 2016 – and rightfully so – interestingly enough surrounded a player who wasn't even on the roster anymore.
After an 18-year, Hall of Fame-career, Charles Woodson finally hung his cleats up following the end of the 2015 season, and after he put together a Pro Bowl season at age 39, there were understandable queries about how Raiders defense would replace No. 24.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie was aggressive in his approach to retooling the back end of the Raiders secondary, signing Reggie Nelson in free agency, then following that up by selecting Karl Joseph in the first round (No. 14 overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Nelson became a mainstay in in the Raiders secondary in his first season in Silver and Black, starting all 16 games for the Raiders en route to earning Pro Bowl honors at season's end, while Joseph battled through injury to appear in 12 games as a rookie, making nine starts of his own.
Veteran safety Nate Allen also proved to be a vital member of the position group, making four starts, along with his work on special teams.
Brynden Trawick rounded out the position group, appearing in 15 games, primarily on special teams, where he led the Raiders with 14 special teams tackles. Keith McGill II – who was technically listed as a defensive back – also saw time defensively, making two starts in 2016.
*By The Numbers: *In 2016, Reggie Nelson led all NFL safeties with seven takeaways, which included a team-high five interceptions.
Going Forward:After a strong first season in Silver and Black, Nelson is under contract for 2017, as is Joseph, who will presumably have the benefit of going through the entirety of the Offseason Workout Program, something he was unable to do last year as he recovered from injury.
As it stands now, the trio of Allen, McGill II, and Trawick are all scheduled to hit the market at the beginning of the new league year, and while each member of that trio had less starts than either Nelson or Joseph, all three proved to be valuable assets on special teams, and at times found themselves taking snaps defensively.
An exclusive look back at the safeties for the Oakland Raiders from the 2016 season.
While the group certainly had its ups and downs in 2016, the Raiders safeties accounted for nine interceptions, and Nelson in particular seemed to have a knack for rising up in the game's biggest moments, not unlike his predecessor Charles Woodson.
I'll be keeping a close eye on Joseph in particular heading into 2017; in his rookie campaign he showed the type of big-hitting ability the Raiders hoped to see when they drafted him in the first round, but it'll be interesting to see how he responds after the benefit of a full Offseason Workout Program.
Standout Performer:Reggie Nelson. The veteran safety had the unenviable position of attempting to fill the void left by Charles Woodson, and while no one man could completely fill that role – Head Coach Jack Del Rio said as much – Nelson was impressive from the first moment he put on the Silver and Black. Elected as one of the Raiders captains by his teammates, Nelson started all 16 games in 2016, finishing the year with five interceptions, and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl at season's end.