Moringa has the speed, instinct, and ability to handle situations to stay safe for long periods. But what about his partner on the other side?
Las Vegas has a strong guard looking for the heat that can throw lumber with the best of them at Jonathan Abram.
But this is not enough. Not in today’s NFL, where the landscape is covered in aerial images.
Raiders need a stronghold on security, and there is one on the open market which ticks the boxes for bravado, hard-hitting, and most importantly, cover skills: Tyranny Mathieu. The Honey Badger will give Las Vegas a devastating defensive presence, Empowered by the Kansas City Chiefs to free agency. One that will be seen as an asset in coverage rather than a liability that Abram was in his first three seasons in the league.
According to the Pro Football Reference, Mathieu was tackled 52 times last season, which resulted in 36 receptions (69.2% completion rate) for 414 yards and three touchdowns. The opposing quarterbacks who interfered with Mathieu had a quarterback rating of 88.1. He played 94% of snaps in defence for the Chiefs (998) and finished with 76 tackles, three interceptions (one pick-six), six passes defended and one sack. His exploits in 2021 earned him Pro Bowl recognition.
Not impressed with the stats and reach numbers?
On the other hand, Abram hit the target 72 times and allowed 57 completions (79.2%) for 483 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterbacks who pushed forward scored 112.0 points. Abram played 99 per cent of the Raiders’ snaps before a shoulder injury sidelined him for a year, and he made 116 tackles, one interception and four defensive passes in 14 games.
We can also go back to the 2020 season to compare the covers of Mathieu and Abram, and the numbers don’t make the latter better off. Abram received a completion rating of 81.8% this year compared to Mathieu’s 62.7%. Honey Badger was also an All-Pro on the first team that season and in 2019. Of course, a lot is going on, like general defence around fuses – like rushing when the quarterback deviates from the benchmark. And make bad decisions – but Abram didn’t do well in hiding for the most part.
In fact, with his contrasting ability and size at 6ft 205lb, he could make the transition closer to the line of scrimmage and experiment as a linebacker. If the raiders were so inclined, that is. Although much smaller, at 5 feet and 9,190 pounds, Mathieu has the same strong confidence and warmth as an Invader but gives teams the luxury of staying well in cover. This makes the 29-year-old car still available on the open market, to say the least. However, if your bank account allows (salary cap) and Mathieu is willing to listen, it would be wise for the Las Vegas front office to pay attention to security.
He is accustomed to playing both in safe places, and for a Raiders team trying to adapt from week to week, game to game, staff like Mathieu is a must. In seven career games against the Raiders since his Arizona days in 2014, Mathieu scored 18 total tackles, two interceptions, three defensive passes and two fumble interceptions against Silver and Black. Now is the time to turn the annoying spike into a weapon for the raiders. Otherwise, Abram is out again, and his coverage skills are improving under new Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, Defender coach Chris Ash and defensive game coordinator Jason Simmons. But Vegas could also roll the dice and take Mathieu with him.