Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

July 7, 2008
Safety preview: Time for Huff to breakout

The Raiders hope Michael Huff doesn't play the background in 2008.

It's not that Huff has been a complete bust since being the seventh overall pick in 2006. He's been steady, but unspectacular.

Huff's profile is so low nationally that while Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was apologizing a few weeks ago after photos of himself partying shirtless with a bottle of Patron in his hand, no one seemed to notice who was next to him in one of the photos: his University of Texas teammate Huff on his left shoulder.


I didn't notice because I really don't care if Vince, Huff or anyone wants to take off their shirt with tequila in hand provided they aren't driving drunk and never cared too much to look at them.

(And I'm also keeping my fingers crossed no pictures of me having fun ever pop up on the internet. The things we do when we're just being silly).

The point is, if that were Bob Sanders, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, someone would have raised a fuss about them being in the picture, too.

But the Raiders appear to be taking steps to give Huff the best chance to succeed. The lack of interceptions and other big plays isn't all Huff's fault.

The long delayed move to free safety is happening, meaning Huff won't be limited to covering tight ends. Big-money addition Gibril Wilson can share that load.

Huff has one interception in two seasons. Given the chance to play in space and use his speed should increase that number this season.

And when you think of elite safeties, it's not always easy to tell if they play strong or free safety because they move around a lot.

The Raiders should do that with Huff. Though he was solid covering tight ends, it would be intriguing to see Huff's sprinter's speed coming on a blitz, too.

Doing that could be a key in Huff becoming a big-time player in the secondary.

Then Huff might find his moves are watched a lot more closely in public.

Other safeties to watch:

Rashad Baker: Late-season pickup off waivers from New England last year.

Tyvon Branch: Rookie will learn and compete for backup time. He'll play a lot on special teams.

Jarrod Cooper: Back from an ACL injury, he could be the first safety off the bench if the Raiders use their nickel package with three safeties. He's also the leader of the coverage units on special teams.

Hiram Eugene: Took over at free safety for Stuart Schweigert late in 2007. Will need to remain a special-teams stalwart to guarantee a roster spot.

Wilson: Brought in to be a tackling machine and provide toughness. The Raiders made him the NFL's third-highest paid safety (six years, $39 million, $16 million guaranteed) so he better bring that.

--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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