ALAMEDA -- The Raiders suffered a big loss during their 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 1, as rookie safety Johnathan Abram tore his rotator cuff and will be placed on injured reserve.
The first-round NFL draft pick is a hellacious tackler, and his speed and tenacity are things the Raiders' defense will miss for the rest of the season.
"Big blow to our team," coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday about the injury. "It's a big loss, no question. Fortunately for us, we kept five safeties, five really good players. So, we'll hope to get John back, keep him around to learn the defense and consider this a redshirt year."
The Raiders rotated their safeties in Week 1, but now there will be more asked of veterans Curtis Riley and Erik Harris. Oakland will need a collective effort to fill the void left by Abram.
"I think they did well," Gruden said of his other safeties' performances in Week 1. "Everybody has a role and right now everybody at the safety position's role has changed a little bit. Fortunately, we have some veterans -- Erik Harris, Karl Joseph, Riley started 16 games for the Giants and played well for us. So, we'll go with those guys and perhaps Leavitt will get his shot."
Riley, a five-year pro out of Fresno State, started all 16 games last season for the New York Giants, collecting four interceptions and five passes defensed during his final season in the Meadowlands. Losing Abram is a huge hit to the Raiders' defense, but Riley is confident he can do what is needed to keep the unit on track.
"Whatever comes my way, whatever the coaches got going, whoever they feel should be out there -- if it's me then I'm going to give it my all and go out there and execute the plays," Riley told NBC Sports California on Wednesday. "We all have similar styles. We're all fast, we're all physical, we all tackle. It's just the same thing all the DBs doing now, just got to come in and do the same thing. I'm always confident."
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Joseph, who roomed with Abram during training camp in Napa, believes Riley will fill in admirably for their fallen teammate and the Raiders' defense will be able to maintain an upward trajectory.
"I think we'll be just fine," Joseph said. "I think Curtis has played at a high level before, he's started in this league so he's going to have to come in and step up for us. He's proven that he can play this offseason, so I think we'll be just fine."
Riley, Harris and the rest of the new safety group will be thrown into the first immediately as the Raiders welcome reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to the Coliseum on Sunday. While star receiver Tyreek Hill will miss the game, the Chiefs passing attack still is one of the best in the league, and Abram's replacements will be tested immediately.