Searching For Answers In the Raiders Secondary

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Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie
Oct 29, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie walks to the field prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After watching Jay Cutler slice the Raiders defense for 311 yards and three touchdowns, the concrete thought of how porous the secondary is. Granted, a consistent pass rush does mask holes in any back four. Yet, Oakland’s secondary isn’t average of even slightly below, it’s poor. If you are reading this, right now, you can claim just as many interceptions as the Oakland Raiders after nine games. While any collection of defensive backs can struggle as a unit, Oakland looks particularly poor in all facets on the game. Why?

Coaching/Scheme

Now, normally the position coach would feel the heat for a unit’s failing. However, when you have an inflexible scheme overall, it’s tough to place blame on a secondary coach. With that said, you begin to wonder what type of coach Rod Woodson is. While he is a Hall Of Fame player, that doesn’t always seem to translate into outstanding Xs and Os (see Magic Johnson).

During his tenure in Oakland, Ken Norton does not seem to make crisp halftime adjustments. If an opponent is picking on a specific area, he appears slow to change. This creates a ripple effect. How much of the secondary woes are the scheme/coaching or players?

 

Talent

Honestly, the blame for the lack of quality falls squarely on Reggie McKenzie. Through drafting and free agency, he built this secondary the way he thought would work. However, what he managed to do was build a unit lacking playmakers and explosion. Teams willfully, brazenly test the Raiders vertically without fear. Everyone remembers Brandin Cooks roasting Sean Smith in New Orleans.

Sean Smith is a 215-pound, 30 year old corner that seems more like a safety, and has appeared that way for a while. McKenzie inked him to a long term deal anyway.

David Amerson, while quicker than Smith, also became a vertical target this season. Although Amerson is four years than Smith, what exactly is his ceiling?

TJ Carrie, maybe the best corner Oakland currently fields, enters a contract year. Carrie will not cheat anyone on effort. He brings the fight to the opposing wideout and will fill in run support. Yet, he feels more like a slot corner or super sub, not a starter.

Gareon Conley possesses all of the natural skillset teams seek in cornerbacks. Unfortunately, he can’t see the field due to injury. With people wrongfully calling him Hayden 2.0, the Raiders need to rest him and get him ready for next year. All he’s doing now is holding a roster spot without production.

Karl Joseph hits with anger and authority. The only knock of him is whether his breakneck style will shorten his career, given his smallish size.

Reggie Nelson should never start for Oakland again. The mind remains willing, yet the body is unable. Meaning, Nelson arrives constantly late to the play, sacrificing yards along the way. Supports claim that veteran leadership be brings the table helps offset big plays. Wrong. Nelson’s failures hurt the Raiders defense as a whole.

Shalom Luani needs more of a role in subpackages. Moreover, he needs field to see what brings to the table. If the Raiders’ season goes south, he needs reps.

Obi Melifonwu is the future at safety. Combined with Joseph, Obi could be one-half of a dominant tandem for the next six- to eight years. Melifonwu, finally healthy, brings a burst and explosion Nelson obviously lacks. When he tackled Julius Thomas Sunday night, RaiderNation cheered. They haven’t seen too many opposing tight ends stopped before the end zone.

In essence, this is the secondary that Oakland decided to roll with this season. Sooner or later, Reggie McKenzie will fix the cornerback situation by completely overhauling it. The Oakland Raiders, if they do not see this as a priority will suffer the same fate going forward.

 

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  • Eric Kench

    For Conley the time is now. The Raider coaches should stop this foolishness and insert him into the lineup. How bad could his injury be after all this time? I agree with this writer that Nelson should be benched in favor of Joseph playing the deep safety. But the Raider coaches do not seem to wanna budge on moving Joseph to the free safety spot.

  • da_raw1

    Well, I think it’s a combination which the writer has pointed out. I think the scheme is what’s killing the Raiders. The “Magic Johnson” reference as it refers to Woodson is a great analogy. These guys don’t cover like Woodson did and in saying this, they shouldn’t be using this type of scheme since they are clearly not at that level. I’m not saying they can’t be, but they’re not today.