In 2009, the Raiders statistically ranked seventh against the pass, while Tyvon Branch led all defensive backs in tackles. Branch also consistently shut down many of the league's top tight-ends, including Todd Heap, Tony Schefter , and Antonio Gates.
Not too shabby—but the Raiders pass defense rankings may be a little skewed.
Last year, teams rarely passed on the Raiders because it was so easy to run; the Raiders defense actually saw more running plays than any other defense, as teams rushed against them a whopping 548 times.
Opponents were able to average 4.5 yards per carry against the Raiders—that's enough to tie for fifth worst in the league along with the Broncos, Chargers, Browns, Cardinals, and Saints. That average was also bad enough for the Raiders to rank 29th against the run.
In comparison, the Raiders saw the least pass attempts in the NFL, seeing only 438 passing attempts, while allowing the 12th lowest completion percentage in the NFL at 59 percent.
And through it all, Nnamdi Asomugha was only targeted 28 times.
In reality, the Raiders defensive backfield was never truly tested enough to warrant the seventh-ranked pass defense or to make a proper judgement on them.
But that is about to change.
The Raiders have spent the off-season reinforcing the D-line and the run defense. They brought in Lamarr Houston to play defensive-end, John Henderson to play defensive tackle, Rolando McClain to play middle linebacker and Kamerion Wimbley to play strong-outside-linebacker. They've also brought in Mike Waufle to coach the d-line and a few players to add quality depth, like Quentin Groves.
Gone are the days of teams running at will against the silver and black. Gone are the days where Nnamdi Asomugha sees only 28 balls thrown in his direction in an entire season. Teams will now be forced into passing downs against the Raiders and forced into passing on the Raiders terms—not their own.
This year, Nnamdi Asomugha and the Raiders defensive backfield will finally be tested.
Will they live up to Raider Nation's expectations and the seventh-ranked passing defense? Or will they disappoint and prove they were overrated due to lack of exposure?
Either way we will find out soon enough.
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