Michael Huff's Breakout Season Is on Hand

tim spoonauerContributor IApril 17, 2009

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 14:  Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers has his pass broken up by Safety Michael Huff #24 of the Oakland Raiders on October 14, 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Michael Huff is the amazingly talented corner the Raiders got out of Texas during the 2006 draft. Honestly, there were only two people I wanted the Raiders to possibly draft with their first pick—Vernon Davis and Michael Huff. Huff was the best corner/safety in that draft.

I think that really proves how poor that draft was for us. We had the seventh pick overall, and I thought the best picks for us were a safety and a tight end. Now looking back, I wish we picked any of the players from Haloti Ngata, Kamerion Wimbley, Donte Whitner, and Ernie Sims. But the past is the past.

In 2006, Huff was an up-and-coming safety with 78 tackles as an out of position strong safety. The very next year, I thought Huff was coming into his own, with 85 tackles, 11 passes defended, and his first INT.

In his first two seasons, Huff was covering the tight ends that would face us like glue. He made it hard for Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Jeb Putzier to catch the ball, let alone make a play after. Then the Raiders picked up Gibril Wilson. Wilson was a tackling machine from the Super Bowl champion Giants.

Finally, Huff could move to a position that would suit his abilities better: the free safety position. As soon as the move was made, everyone from Lane Kiffin, to the fans, to Huff himself said this position change would make him a better player for the team.

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I don’t know what happened after that point, but Huff played terrible in the FS position.

Even though it was painful, here are two circumstances I can remember that almost made me cry:

The first game of the season vs. the Broncos, Darrell Jackson caught a 20-yard catch and was right next to the sideline.

Huff came at him fast, Jackson didn’t move, and Huff missed the tackle, which left Jackson with a clear, straight line to the end zone.

Then, in OT vs. the Jets, Huff was playing safety, and playing close up. Favre threw a ball directly to Huff and he dropped it. If Huff catches that ball, we are already in field goal range. So, yet again, the past is the past.

Then, during this offseason, we dropped Gibril for not being a team player. Now, Huff can play either position, but I think he will stay at FS and will be able to have his breakout season.

This isn't just a guess, though. I think there is a lot of evidence to prove me correct.

First of all, Nnamdi broke out in the fourth year of his career. Who says Huff won’t do the same?

Secondly, Huff now has no pressure on him to be our playmaker at FS. Now he can just play.

Finally, Huff has been to all the voluntary workouts, trying to get better, and Tom Cable, the guy who I believe will help turn us around, thinks it will happen.

Q: "Any spot for Huff on this team?"

Cable: "I think so. Everybody here gets the opportunity to compete. Michael is a talented, talented player. You hope that he’ll put his best forward and go for it. I think he will. Knowing him, I think he will."

For 2009, I am calling Huff having around 75 tackles, four INTs, and two FF, being on his way to becoming our nasty FS.

I can’t believe he will fold and just accept people calling him a bust, so this will be his year to step up to the plate.