Oakland Raiders' Defensive Backs Wait in Anticipation

A.J. DeMelloCorrespondent IJune 22, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha #21 of the Oakland Raiders points an opposing receiver against the Cleveland Browns during a 26-24 win at McAfee Coliseum on September 23, 2007 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images)

In 2006, the Raiders had the second worst year in the history of the franchise (1-13 in 1962) with an awful 2-14 regular season record.

However, there were a couple of bright spots in that season. Nnamdi Asomugha, who is now regarded by many as the best cover corner in the NFL, broke out onto the scene with eight interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Good enough for Asomugha to earn his first pro-bowl invite.

Former Raiders corner back Fabian Washington even had four picks that season, and that says a lot since he has only registered two since then.

The Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison had two picks that year as well.

Overall, the Raiders were first in the league defending the pass, giving up only 150.8 yards a game through the air. On the ground—well that's a different story.

What to make of it?

The Raiders garnered 34 sacks that season, only reaching 27 in 2007 and 32 in 2008. A once promising pass rush let the Raiders secondary down the past two years.

It's very possible that can change now. The Raiders had 32 sacks last year with two players trying to shake injuries, Tommy Kelly (4.5 sacks) and Derrick Burgess (3.5).

Not to mention, the Raiders' defensive line rotation had been shaky at best as they had more pass rushers than power ends making their way into the starting lineup.

You can't win in the trenches if all you have is pass rushers. Now, that might change a little with the addition of Greg Ellis. Jay Richardson, Greg Ellis, and 2009 third-round pick Matt Shaugnessey look to change that up as they are better-molded to handle the run than the other ends.

All are expected to compete to be one of the Raiders' starting defensive ends. Derrick Burgess has proven to be a force coming off the bench on passing downs, and second year player Trevor Scott looks to do the same if he does not crack the starting lineup as well.

Either way, the Raiders should have their best defensive end core since 2005. At least on paper that is. It's all speculation now as to what they, as well as the Raiders secondary, can achieve.

If your defensive line can collapse the pocket, stop the run, and force the pass, then your secondary will reap the benefits.

Asomugha was thrown at less than 30 times this year, giving up only eight catches with one registered interception. Chris Johnson had three picks taking over for Hall, showing that he can be just as good in terms of tackling and run support as he occasionally made plays at the line of scrimmage, also forcing one fumble.

The Raiders have a great core of corners, but their safeties are still suspect at best (if their defensive line generates a pass rush then they can benefit just as well in due time).

With the NFL's best cover corner in Nnamdi Asomugha, and second-year starter Chris Johnson (who did very well as the opposite corner last year nearly shutting down receivers with his bump and run skill) waiting in anticipation for foolish decision making and forced throws, they look to get back to the best pass defense in the league, if the defensive line can step it up a notch.


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