Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

January 24, 2008
Sorting out the secondary

The Franchise wears No. 21.

The big question about the secondary is whether Nnamdi Asomugha will be back for the 2008 season. Barring an unseen change of plans from the Raiders’ front office (such as a long-term deal), Asomugha will receive the franchise tag and be back.

He’s not expecting to play for another team after emerging as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. And the Raiders would be foolish to let him go.

At least one-fourth of the secondary is settled.

What the Raiders do with the rest of the defensive backfield is uncertain.

The closest thing a certainty beyond Asomugha is that Stanford Routt will be the other starting cornerback.

Yes, he gave up some long touchdowns (against Green Bay and Houston) but with the Raiders almost exclusively in man coverage, that’s going to happen from time to time.

He replaced Fabian Washington in Week 3 and never gave up the starting job. He’s bigger than Fabian and also has good speed.

Washington’s season was among the more disappointing parts of the 2007 season. There was only one game in 2006 (at Cincinnati against Chad Johnson) in which he looked overmatched.

That happened a lot more in 2007 with team going after him in three-receiver sets.

Some of the problems Washington had can’t be fixed. He’s the shortest of the three and teams used big receivers against him. Overall, he didn’t have a horrible season, but it was definitely a step back.

Chris Johnson and Chris Carr were the other cornerbacks that played a lot. Johnson was primarily a special teams player.

In many ways, Carr is the glue of the secondary. He can play cornerback and safety. Besides Asomugha, he was the only other defensive back that you could count on to make an open-field tackle.

He’s a restricted free agent I expect will be back.

I think the Raiders are fine at cornerback. As far as safety, there’s work.

First off, the Raiders need to figure out what they’re going to do with Michael Huff.

The plan was to use him in multiple ways. He would cover receivers. He would blitz. He’d play deep in coverage.

But he ended up spending most of his time covering tight ends.

Huff is about 6-foot and around 200 pounds at the most. He’s not the first smallish strong safety in the NFL, but how the Raiders used him was puzzling.

They didn’t take advantage of his speed or mix up coverages involving him nearly enough.

Lane Kiffin intimated a move to free safety might be in order for 2008. Kiffin said Huff became more aggressive as the season progressed. I don’t think Huff had a bad season. He got better from his rookie season. Now it’s time to take advantage of his athletic ability like a Bob Sanders, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu is used.

Huff moving to free safety would mean Stuart Schweigert isn’t getting his job back. He lost it after 13 games to Hiram Eugene after being the subject of scorn for missed tackles in the run game.

Schweigert was far from the only offender in that department. It’s one of the reasons Washington was benched. But Schweigert was phased out and only played when Eugene needed a break.

Whether he or Eugene can play strong safety will determine their roles in 2008, assuming they make the team. Both are good on special teams.

The other safety that played was Jarrod Cooper, another special teams star that Kiffin wants the team to resign.

Rashad Baker was claimed off waivers at the end of the season from New England because Kiffin wanted to give him a look at safety for 2008.

If the Raiders can solidify their safety play, it would help in the run game and the passing defense will be fine.

That will start once the Raiders figure out what they’re going to do with Huff. They’ll also look in the draft and free agency for help.

The best safety that would have been available – Sanders – is already locked up.

Oshiomoge Atogwe is a restricted free agent from St. Louis the Raiders should look at.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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