During the Raiders minicamp, Darrius Heyward-Bey had more Nnamdi Asomugha than he could handle. The coaching staff decided to let him take some time off to, perhaps, not only regain his strength, but perhaps regroup his confidence.
After his first route, which Nnamdi cut in front of and almost picked the ball off, DHB responded, "Ok, I'm not in college anymore." Asomugha said that the rookie WR gave the play away with his body language and would talk to him about it later.
Asomugha is a motivated man this year, inspired to be at the top of his game and prove that he is worth every cent of the three year, $45 million dollar contract that made him the highest paid player per season in league history. He has said now that his contract issues are taken care of, he can go out and be the leader of this team. Start taking the reins please kind sir, your teammates could use the vocal side of you Nnamdi.
Quarterbacks won't throw in his direction. During the final four games of 2007, Asomugha face Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, David Gerrard, and Phillip Rivers—he was thrown at four times. That was 1 1/2 seasons ago, yes, but this past season he improved his game enough to earn AP All Pro honors for the second time and earn his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Mike Shanahan said before a game between the two teams last year, "I've never met him but I'm going to shake his hand after the game because I keep on looking for him but I never get a chance to talk to him. He's one of my favorite players, even though he is with the Raiders. That shows you how much I like him." Many others, around the league, are calling him the best corner in the league.
QB's and coach's around the league are learning that he is a true shut down corner who you'd be lucky to squeeze one by on, and it certainly wouldn't happen twice in a row.
Asomugha is looking to become the face of the franchise. Tom Cable is looking to take advantage of that by lining him up against his new draft day present, rookie WR project Heyward-Bey. This could go two ways. It could break the rookie, or it could be the best thing that has happened to Oakland since the 2002 AFC championship.
I pose this question to all of you Raider Nation Faithful: What if DHB gets so adjusted to being covered by this top notch corner that he becomes uncoverable by anyone who can't play at Asomugha's level? Not saying that these guys aren't out there, but if the other league teams have to devote their No. 1 corner to a rookie, it gives the Raiders an advantage on gameday.
Number one is that they won't realize it for about the first three or so games of the year. The second thing is that it would leave a lot of things open for McFadden, who the Raiders intend to move around a lot this year. Johnny Lee Higgins, who is explosive every time he touches a football, will get better looks and 6'4" 225 lbs 4.4 40 yd dash, Chaz Schilens, who emerged at the end of last year as a potential No. 1 WR prospect.
Then, just throw in that top 10 rushing offense (sixth in 2007), and Zach Miller, the up and coming TE, and suddenly you have a legitimate offense that could drastically improve the defense by letting them get some sideline rest. This is assuming that JMR can get his accuracy reined in, which could be a big assumption, but I personally don't think he is as bad at throwing or as numb-skulled as people seem to like to make him out to be.
What if Asomugha pushes this kid, Darrius Heyward-Bey, so hard in practice that he goes to another level in the next four months and does start to put up numbers like Randy Moss did in his rookie year? Is that even possible without a mentor like Cris Carter? I can only imagine it. So far it is unfathomable to my aching, "hope the Raiders don't have another down year" brain. But the possibilities of this training camp head to head are inevitably endless.