Safety Karl Joseph, safety Reggie Nelson, and cornerback Sean Smith
Last season, the Oakland Raiders got better across the board.
Quarterback Derek Carr was another year older, and another year wiser. Defensive end Khalil Mack established himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, and Head Coach Jack Del Rio changed the culture surrounding the Silver and Black, re-establishing the team as a group to be taken seriously in the AFC West.
However, as improved as the team was, there was still one glaring area of the roster that needed to be addressed heading into 2016 – the secondary.
Last season, the Raiders ranked 26th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, conceding 258 passing yards per game, and excluding cornerback David Amerson, the unit was unable to find any type of consistency throughout the season.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie knew that going into 2016 the position group had to be infused with talent, and that's precisely what he did, not only signing cornerback Sean Smith and safety Reggie Nelson in free agency, but also drafting Karl Joseph in the first round (No. 14 overall) of this year's NFL Draft.
Over the past several months, McKenzie has been lauded around the league for how he addressed the need in the team's secondary, and NFL.com recently pegged the Raiders as the team with the most-improved secondary in the league.
"Even with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson anchoring the unit, and with a midseason boost from successful waiver pickup David Amerson, the secondary was too often the weak link in Oakland's 2015 defense," wrote Chris Wesseling of Around The NFL. "Enter Pro Bowl free safety Reggie Nelson, first-round strong safety Karl Joseph and former Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith. The Smith-Amerson tag team at cornerback figures to be one of the NFL's most physically imposing, pushing Hayden into a battle with T.J. Carrie, Neiko Thorpe and Nate Allen for snaps in subpackages. Nelson's 21 interceptions over the past five seasons are second only to Richard Sherman's total of 26 in that span."
Wessling also had a positive review of rookie safety Karl Joseph, who missed the majority of his senior season recovering from injury.
"Ten months after tearing his ACL at West Virginia, Joseph started the Raiders' preseason opener opposite Nelson," wrote Wesseling. "Not bad for a bone-jarring safety who drew comparisons to Earl Thomas, Brian Dawkins and former Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders on draft night."
Although the pair has just two preseason games together under its belt, the tandem of Amerson and Smith has been impressive in their limited action, not allowing a passing touchdown as of yet during their time on the field.
While a complete report card of the moves McKenzie made this offseason won't manifest itself until the end of the season, it certainly seems like the additions of Joseph, Nelson and Smith are being well received around the NFL.