HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Gus Bradley has a knack for reading offensive schemes, putting them on a whiteboard, and making it loud and clear what he expects from the Las Vegas Raiders defense.
“It’s crystal clear,” veteran linebacker K.J. Wright said. “To see Gus, with his play-calling with these guys, it’s really fun to see.”
It’s especially fun for Wright, a 12-year veteran who was part of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense built by Bradley, and is now an integral part of one of the more impressive units through the first two weeks of the NFL season.
Bradley, in fact, has four pupils who have played for him elsewhere and who have become an extension of him with the defense.
“You definitely have Gus’ disciples at all three levels: the back end, linebackers and the D-line,” Wright said. “Everywhere Gus has gone, he’s been successful. For him to come here and have the same successful start, this 2-0 start, is really cool to see.”
Wright is joined by fellow linebacker Denzel Perryman, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Casey Hayward as leaders at all three levels of Bradley’s defense. There's also defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, who was drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and arrived in Seattle shortly after the “Legion of Boom” was established and where he thrived in a defense Bradley laid the groundwork for.
Perryman said having veterans teach Bradley's system has been a benefit for a Las Vegas’ defense littered with talented youth that simply needed to be corralled, taught and brought together as a cohesive unit.
“For some of these guys, this is their first year in this defense and bringing guys in that’s been in this defense for a while or in the system, just helping out these guys. ... I can probably better explain it better than coach Bradley can,” said Perryman, who leads the team with 22 combined tackles.
“I know with them bringing me in, just talking with the coaches, they expect me to be a leader. I just come in to do my job and I lead by example, lead by my play. When I have to say something I feel like guys listen.”
They must be.
Last season, the Raiders allowed a league third-highest 29.9 points per game while their defense had the third-worst third-down efficiency.
Through two games, Las Vegas’ defense is tied for 10th in allowing 22.0 points per game and ranks seventh in third-down efficiency (33.3%).
The Raiders have allowed a league seventh-fewest first downs (37) and rank fifth in quarterback pressures (28.4%), and the defense has been flagged just 10 times, tied for sixth fewest in the NFL.
Hayward anchors the secondary and leads the league with 76 coverage snaps without allowing a catch this season.
Bradley, Perryman and Wright all agreed it’s not only due to a unit-wide effort to play fast, efficient and mistake-free football, but also credited their younger teammates for listening to the elder statesmen.
“I love the way this defense plays — it plays very confident,” Wright said. “And there’s not too many mistakes out there because what we do is we prepare like no other. And we’re just able to play fast.”
After shutting down 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson in Week 1 and stifling the Steelers in Pittsburgh last Sunday, Las Vegas' next task is the Miami Dolphins, who will have Jacoby Brissett under center while starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa recovers from fractured ribs.
Miami ranks last in the league with 3.9 yards per play and the Raiders are seeking their first 3-0 start since going 4-0 in 2002. Yet, coach Jon Gruden is trying to keep things in perspective.
“We had a 2-0 year last year,” Gruden said. “It’s not where you line up, it’s where you wind up. It’s the past now. We got a long way to go. We still have 15 games. Somebody told me we were playing 17 regular season games. And we might play 18 or 19 next year, who knows? Not to be sarcastic, but we want to win this game this week and try to stay in the hunt.”
NOTES: The Raiders listed 13 players on their injury report, including offensive guard Richie Incognito, who continues to be a non participant with a calf injury. RB Josh Jacobs (ankle) was also listed as a non participant today, despite being seen with a red non-contact jersey when practice began in the indoor facility. Safeties Dallin Leavitt (concussion) and Roderic Teamer (ankle) were also non participants. LB Nick Kwiatkoski (concussion), DE Carl Nassib (pectoral/toe) and DT Darius Philon (knee) were limited.
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