Tanner Muse was a surprising 2020 third-round pick. Part of the fans were thrilled that the so-called Special Team war dad was making an impact. The selection had a vision to turn a safety into a bottom linebacker while he contributed to the kicking game.
Well, it didn’t go the way they planned. Muse is struggling with injuries and the transition to linebacker left him on the cutting room floor after 2021 training camp. He hasn’t played a single shot for the Las Vegas organization. Raiders.
In last year’s draft, the Raiders decided to go back and try the conversion a second time. The very athletic but oversized for modern safety from Virginia Tech caught the eye of Gus Bradley. Divine Deablo was the pick with hopes of becoming an NFL starting linebacker.
Deablo didn’t get much playing time at first. On the depth chart, Cory Littleton was the starting linebacker with Nick Kwiatkoski ahead of him. When injuries piled up at the position, Deablo got his shot and never looked back.
He was the starting linebacker from Week 13 until the end of the season. Where you worried about the transition was playing the run inside the box. This left Muse as an easily replaceable drive, but Deablo didn’t have that problem.
Deablo has shown he can become one of the best-executed defensemen in the league. He led all NFL rookie linebackers in 2021 in missed tackle percentage with 3.4 against the run.
A perfect example is below in one of his best performances on run defense. The offense wants to send the ball to Joe Mixon in the split zone in the wildcard game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Deablo realizes his responsibility is the b gap on the weak side and slips in after the slam on the start. He quickly recognizes his split zone and comes back to the weak side A gap to make the tackle for a short gain.
He even shows discipline as a running defender, like in this example against the Broncos. He does not pursue his gap too much and plays the cutback. Deablo was in the perfect position to make sure that wasn’t an option for the runner.
This type of play from a converted safety to linebacker is rare in the first year. However, his coverage and area recognition skills are a work in progress. As you can see below, he can show the traits to play man, hanging with Tee Higgins. He recognizes the route combination, quickly skips the route and stays with Higgins helping to force the sack.
There are also major failures. Against the Broncos, he has cruiser responsibility while playing hook linebacker in coverage 3. Deablo doesn’t realize that Jerry Jeudy is running a cruiser and lets him run right past him in coverage. This leads to a massive play for the Broncos offense.
Even with those issues, there were more positives than negatives with Deablo in the starting lineup. He helped a Raiders defense finish second in 3rd down conversion percentage in Weeks 15-18. Also, after Washington’s loss in Week 13, he stepped onto the podium to show off his leadership skills. .
Deablo released numerous films to prevent the Raiders from seeking a starting linebacker at will. Free agent Jayon Brown was brought in deep but didn’t show the ability to play the run with more experience as a front-seven defender. Deablo is one reason for fans to be excited about the future of the Raiders’ defense.