The Oakland Raiders appear to be turning things around as they went 8-8 in 2010 after finishing below .500 for seven straight years. I think they are just two players away from completing the turnaround with a trip deep into the playoffs, provided they keep their main players.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the main players the Raiders must keep to make it happen. Both his production and what he means to this team should lead Raider owner Al Davis to open up that checkbook.
Turn the page to see why.
The Oakland Raiders were the No. 2 ranked pass defense in the NFL in 2010. Nnamdi Asomugha covering whoever dares to line up on his side takes one option away from opposing quarterbacks.
When you get to 8-8 after seven straight seasons of below .500, it's time to improve weakness instead of messing with the best parts of your team. If Raider owner Al Davis wants to improve the team, bringing in an outside linebacker to stop the run and a pass-blocking left tackle is the way to do it.
But that has to be done while keeping the strength of the football team intact.
Giving up a strength while trying to correct a weakness doesn't improve a football team.
Al Davis' run-the-ball-and-throw-it-deep system can still work in today's game, but you're going to have to contain the opposing quarterback. The best way to contain a quarterback is to have your defensive line hit him and cover his receivers.
Covering receivers is where Asomugha comes in as he is the best at it in the game today. Sure, Stanford Routt has emerged as a corner, but in today's passing game you need more than one good corner.
With Asomugha gone, teams will throw away from Routt like they did Asomugha and the Raiders pass-defense will be just as it was before Routt's emergence. Chris Johnson is okay and replaced DeAngelo Hall, but he isn't great so he can't replace Asomugha.
The Raiders usually have two great corners when they win the Super Bowl.
Darren McFadden just enjoyed a breakout season in 2010.
Richard Seymour brought the greatness of all his All-Pros and three Super Bowl rings to Raider Nation in 2009. But the individual greatness Asomugha has shown over the last five years in Oakland, distinguish him as the face of the franchise.
It is he who represents the Raiders in the NFL Network's "Keep Gym In School" campaign. I have yet to see any other Raider player as a pitch man of any sort for a product or campaign.
Since 2006, Asomugha is the face Davis has hung his hat on.
Davis needs to remember that.
Davis has been known to reward his players who play well.
Sometimes he rewards guys a little too soon.
Chris Johnson got a big contract for one good year he had when he stepped in for newly cut DeAngelo Hall in 2008. Stanford Routt got a huge contract for the year he had covering receivers in 2010.
Don't tell me Davis isn't going to reward Asomugha for being the best corner in the game for the last five years.
It won't be right if he doesn't.
Do we really know if Routt is that guy after one good year in six?
What kind of message does that send to the fans if you reward players like Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt for one good year and not Asomugha for five? Seymour is another matter because he's been great his whole football life and he's become quite a leader in Raider Nation.
During the seven horrible years, fans were always able to say, "Hey, we got Nnamdi Asomugha." He was the only player on the team who was worth the price of admission at one point.
There's a whole lot of Asomugha jerseys in the stands and Sundays.
He's also a beloved man because of what he does in the community.
He is often called the "Awesome One" by fans and I call him "Awesome-Woo-Ha"
The Raiders look like they can contend for the AFC West next year.
But, if the Raiders are going to beat Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers, Asomugha is very necessary! If they can do that, they will face the top quarterbacks and receivers, so you know what I'm going to say:
Asomugha is very necessary!
The truth is, if you try to build a team around a cornerback, I hope you're patient because it will take a while. But when a team is ready to go to the playoffs, a great corner will be a major difference in how far you go.
Can the best corner in the game be even better?
Yes he can!
Former Raider and best all-around defensive back of all time Rod Woodson, is now the Raiders defensive-back coach. Woodson has actually had a big hand in his development already, as he played with him in 2002.
I'm sure there are more tricks he can show Asomugha, including how to take care of his body as he gets older. Remember, Woodson played in the NFL for 17 years and was an All-Pro in his 16th year.
What I'm most interested in, is what I know Woodson is going to push for Asomugha to do going forward. On NFL Network, Woodson spoken of his desire to see Asomugha follow the opposing team's best receiver.
Now he is in a position to make that happen.
Asomugha has been so great for so long, while the Raiders have been so horrible for so long. This talented team and coaching staff appears to be knocking on the door to contend now and Asomugha should be there for that.
Not that he needs a reason, but I'm sure Richard Seymour will take it up a little more to take Asomugha to a Super Bowl. Great players know great players when they see one and, usually, the one who has rings wants to get one for the one who doesn't.
Asomugha is very close with Woodson and Raider legend/ front office employee Willie Brown. In the past, Asomugha has chosen the Raiders over going to a team that's going to contend.
Knowing that he doesn't have to make that choice anymore, (I believe) Davis should bring him back.
Do the right thing Al!
Get your boy done!
He has suffered through enough horrible seasons while his play was second to none. He stayed loyal to you and had another All-Pro season last year, so he should be rewarded just like everyone else you rewarded.
You have a team that looks like it can possibly go somewhere in 2011, and having Asomugha will push things further. Don't let this man walk out the door and watch the pass-defense go from No. 2 to No. 17.
I'm going to disregard everything you've said about the situation this offseason because you never tip your hand.