Rookie Safety Abram Appears Ready to Start

First-round pick already has worked himself into a role with the first-team defense, alongside Karl Joseph

It hasn’t taken Johnathan Abram long to make an impression on the Raiders.

A terrific impression.

The rookie safety, one of the team’s three first-round picks this spring, already is playing with the first-team defense in organized team activities (OTAs), paired with Karl Joseph, reports Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

At this point, reports Gehlken, Abram is a likely starter. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is impressed not only by how he plays but how he works and leads.

“He’s smart,” Guenther told Gehlken. “He’s real smart. From a rookie player, with all the stuff safeties have to know, he’s on top of it each and every day.

“So it’s good to have him. When he’s back there, as I stand at the back of the defense, I hear him communicate. He doesn’t sound like a rookie player. He sounds like a veteran player.”

At Mississippi State, Abram had a wide-ranging impact on defense. As a senior, he had 99 tackles, including nine for loss, three sacks and two interceptions over 13 games. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder was labeled a “blunt-force striker” with the tackling ability of a linebacker by Lance Zierlein, a draft analyst for, before this year’s draft.

“Abrams shines as a physical run defender with pursuit speed and energy to play sideline to sideline,” wrote Zierlein.

Former Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner, acquired this offseason to play nickel cornerback and some hybrid safety-corner, told Gehlken that Abram is an “alpha” personality who takes charge.

“He’s ready to go,” said Joyner. “He’s been an alpha all his life.”

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden already has likened Abram to an old-school, hard-nosed safety, the type of player who builds a reputation as a punishing hitter in the secondary.

“He has a passion to find the guy with the ball and bring him down,” said Gruden.

Now, it appears, he’ll likely get the chance to show that talent as a starter from Game 1 in September.

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