As starting free safety Michael Huff sits out a second-straight day of practice after injuring his groin against the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders may be forced to use a player whom they initially cut when the team had to get down to the 53 player maximum and then brought back shortly thereafter.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Raiders' free safety on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills may be none other than journeyman Matt Giordano.
While there is still a chance number 24 may man the center field position of the Raiders' defense, fans may have to get used to seeing Giordano in the secondary. When Huff exited the game, it was Giordano who took his place in the lineup.
That is not to say he did not perform well in Huff's absence.
The seven-year veteran recorded three tackles in the contest, to go along with one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one interception that came at a crucial time in the game and helped set up Sebastian Janikowski's record-tying 63-yard field goal. He nearly recovered a fumble, but the football squirted out from under him because of the slippery conditions on the field.
Signed during training camp mostly to compete on special teams and to replace Hiram Eugene who was placed on injured reserve after the first game of the preseason, Giordano was originally sent packing on the final cut-down day, only to be brought back by head coach Hue Jackson after he reevaluated the roster further. Veteran running back Michael Bennett was cut to make room on the squad for Giordano.
Giordano is mostly known for his time spent with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was a special teams standout. He also started in six games for the team at safety and had a big play in the Super Bowl against the Chicago Bears, breaking up a critical fourth down pass.
The position of free safety, as is pretty much every position on the Raiders' defense, is one of the toughest positions to play because of the emphasis on winning one-on-one matchups. Many times, the free safety is left alone on an island to patrol the deep zone and is the last line of defense on many run plays.
Oakland's free safeties sometimes get unfairly blamed when the team is gashed for big plays. Other than Rod Woodson, who played the position to perfection in the early 2000s, every free safety before and after Woodson has received his fair share of criticism, including Huff.
Giordano may look to Woodson, who is now an assistant defensive backs coach with the squad, for tips on how to play the position. Where the Raiders may miss Huff the most however is in the team's nickel package.
Because of his inexperience at cornerback, Huff is the primary nickel corner for the team on obvious passing downs. We saw this on Monday night. In this scenario, Giordano came in and played that deep safety position. Rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke occupied Huff's position at nickel corner.
If Huff cannot indeed suit up this Sunday afternoon at Buffalo, look for Bills' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to try and throw downfield early and often, as he did last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Because of the strength of Oakland's front four, expect a lot of short passes down the field early and then once the defense is tired and run down, for Fitzpatrick to attempt his shots down the field with medium range to long range passes.
That will be Giordano's responsibility.
Yet if he has a similar game to one he played against the Broncos, you can be sure Buffalo's point total won't be near the 41 they scored against Kansas City.
It will be up to the defensive line to consistently apply pressure on Fitzpatrick so he does not get comfortable in the pocket. If not, we will find out if Giordano is up to the task.
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