When Jon Gruden drafted Johnathan Abram in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, he instantly inserted him into the starting lineup and wanted him to be a leader on defense. But that proved to be too much for him, especially earlier in his career when he couldn’t stay on the field due to injuries.
Abram did have the best season of his career in 2021, but he still was a major liability in coverage and his best play came as a pseudo-linebacker where he could play near the line of scrimmage.
So how does Abram fit in new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s defense? Well, not great.
In a recent article by Tashan Reed of The Athletic, he wrote about five players who have the most on the line this offseason. One of those players was Abram, who Reed believes isn’t a lock to start in 2022. Here is a snippet of his thoughts on the fourth-year safety from Mississippi State:
“Graham utilizes a box safety in his system, but his scheme calls for safeties to be versatile in their role, responsibilities and alignment. Abram hasn’t shown he can do that so far in his career — nor has he been able to stay healthy — so it makes sense that there will be a competition to determine who’ll start opposite Tre’von Moehrig.”
It is worth mentioning that the Raiders declined the fifth-year option on Abram as expected. And they signed veteran safety Duron Harmon, who has made a bunch of big plays for the Patriots over the last several years.
Abram will play a role on this defense, but the days of him playing 90 percent of the defensive snaps are gone. Even if he happens to win the starting job, expect Graham to use a heavy rotation with Moehrig likely being the safety that stays on the field all the time.
Given that the new front office and coaching staff have zero ties to Abram and their love for Harmon, it seems pretty likely that Abram won’t be a Week 1 starter for the Raiders unless he has a fantastic offseason and training camp.
Abram is set to be a free agent after the 2022 season, so don’t be surprised if this is the best offseason and year of his career. However, he’ll need to convince the new coaching staff that they can trust him in coverage in order to stay on the field.