Nnamdi Asomugha went down with a high ankle sprain injury against the Seahawks and when he returned last week against the Dolphins after three weeks of rest he clearly wasn’t himself.
Now it appears his ankle is worse than previously believed or got worse during the game on Sunday. Asomugha could miss more time.
Chris Johnson was also out with a groin injury and could also miss this week’s game in San Diego.
That leaves Stanford Routt and rookies Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden as the only healthy cornerbacks.
Jeremy Ware drew poor reviews from the coaching staff in Pittsburgh and was inactive last week. Walter McFadden was active and had a rough day against Miami. Both will be relied upon against the second best passing team in football.
When the Raiders defeated the Chargers in Oakland, Philip Rivers threw for 431 yards and two touchdowns. He was unstoppable against the Raiders secondary, which included Asomugha and Johnson.
Michael Huff will likely see additional snaps at cornerback in practice this week and could see plenty of work at cornerback in nickel situations.
The Raiders would then bring in Stevie Brown at free safety or have Mike Mitchell come in to cover Antonio Gates with Branch sliding over to the deep safety position.
If Norv Turner is smart, which offensively he is one of the smartest, he will spread the Raiders out by using four and five receivers sets.
The dime package means one or both of Ware and McFadden would have to be in the game presenting favorable matchups for the Chargers dynamic passing game.
Ware and McFadden simply must step up this week for the Raiders to have a chance at stopping the Chargers passing game.
The pass rush from the front seven need to pressure Rivers to give the young secondary a chance. Communication must be better in the secondary to avoid huge mistakes, such as a corner believing he has over-the-top when he doesn’t.
It took a series of big plays for the Raiders to defeat the Chargers the first time at home. Now instead of the Chargers being banged up and the Raiders healthy at home, it is the reverse.
One of the big keys to this game will be the play of the Raiders secondary. After the Chargers rolled them up the first time and after an embarrassing showing last week at home, they should be hungry.
Watching the game a second time and grading players is quite a task. It also set my readers up for a disappointment this week. I didn’t watch the game a second time.
There I said it and it was like ripping off a bandage. The good news is I played closer attention to certain things during the game this week. I guess after four weeks of watching the game a second time for analysis I had a hard time turning off that part of my brain.
Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch & Chris Johnson
Huff was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Doesn’t that say it all? Not quite. In fact, Huff was headed for the duds list until he forced the Philip Rivers fumble to seal the win. Tyvon Branch returned the fumble for a touchdown. Chris Johnson was being used like a cheap hooker in the passing game, until he crushed an offensive lineman attempting to recover the game-deciding fumble. His play was what enabled Branch to scoop and score. Three duds became studs on one play. Amazing.
John Fassel, Rock Cartwright & Brandon Myers
For all the abuse Fassel has taken for his special teams units, he found something in the Chargers punt protection. Cartwright blocked the first punt and it went out of the endzone for a safety. Myers blocked the second punt and Hiram Eugene was able to pick it up and score a touchdown. Fassel may be figuring out was he has in his returners. Nick Miller had a long return and there was nothing Sunday to detract from an amazing performance from the special teams units.
Coming in for the injured Bruce Gradkowski, who was 1 of 7 passing, Campbell completed 13 of 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. His quarterback rating was 117.6. He was sacked three times and fumbled once. If the offensive line can give Campbell enough time, this is the type of damage he can do. He will likely get the start this Sunday in San Francisco.
I’d say Darren McFadden has competition for touches. Hue Jackson must get both involved when they are healthy. Bush ran for 104 yards on 26 carries and added 31 yards in the passing game. He scored one touchdown and had 4.0 yards per carry average. Bush is averaging 4.4 ypc this season to McFadden’s 4.6 ypc. For all the offensive line’s problems in pass protection they are going a good job run blocking.
Yes, even the mighty Asomugha can make the duds list. Someone had to make the list. He allowed more catches than I can ever remember him giving up in a single game. The Raiders were playing more zone on Sunday and that could have been part of it, but better for a bad game to happen in a win than a loss. There is little doubt he will rebound or lose any respect around the league. It actually could be a positive if teams try to attack him more in the passing game.
Marshall finally figured out how to get his players to stop the run at the expense of good coverage. He used much more zone coverage than usual and was blitzing with regularity. Blitzing a good quarterback is rarely a good idea. It worked against Donovan McNabb in 2009 with a terrible offensive line, it backfired against Philip Rivers. Rivers just tossed passes to his backs if he got in trouble and threw deep passes in between the zones to his tall receivers. McNabb didn’t have these options in 2009.
I wonder how much of Marshall’s plan was dictated by his linebackers. Without Groves and Howard, his only option at linebacker with solid coverage skills was Mike Mitchell, who he went to late in the game to cover Antonio Gates. Without linebackers who can man cover, he can’t run the man-to-man scheme. Pressuring Rivers is required if you want to limit him, but with any great quarterback you must get pressure with four or disguise your blitzes. Raiders did neither on Sunday.
Zero catches. He was wide open for a touchdown and Jason Campbell didn’t have the confidence to throw it to him. The only Raiders receiver to catch a pass was Louis Murphy who caught two passes for 61 yards. That can’t happen. For all the talk about how hard he worked he’s been basically invisible. He goes head-to-head with Michael Crabtree and has the opportunity to prove to the NFL he was the better draft selection.
Old habits may die hard for Campbell. The Titans found and used a tell in Campbell’s game. He tips pass plays by sinking and sliding away from center just before he snaps the ball. This was the case in Tennessee and at various points last year. This puts the offensive line at an disadvantage, as they begin their rush as soon as Campbell sinks. The offensive line is put as a disadvantage and this group of offensive lineman aren’t very good to begin with. Correctable, but a very poor habit.
Cooper Carlisle (+0/-8) Overall -8
Carlisle was the worst of the offensive lineman. Even Mario Henderson held his ground in pass protection better. He was blown into the backfield by the bull rush, blitzers just went around him and on more than one occasion Carlisle just blocked the wrong player. In some cases Carlisle would disengage his blocker to help out Langston Walker, leaving his man to pressure Campbell. It would be hard to imagine Daniel Loper or rookie Bruce Campbell doing worse.
Tyvon Branch (+3/-5) Overall -2
Tyvon was directly responsible for 21 of the 38 points the Raiders surrendered Sunday. He bit on the play action pass leaving Nate Washington open for the long touchdown. He also missed a tackle in the hole on Chris Johnson on the 76-yard touchdown run and was fooled on play action again and lost track of the tight end for an easy flip pass touchdown from Vince Young. He happened to make a few plays as well, but it was a horrible game for Branch. One he wishes to soon forget.
Mario Henderson (+0/-3) Overall -3
Most fans were irate when Mario Henderson allowed a strip sack of Jason Campbell in the first quarter. Jacob Ford blew by Henderson who was slow to get off the line of scrimmage. Henderson was lucky to touch the defender down while he complained to officials that Ford was offsides. Reality was Henderson got off the ball slow and the defender got an excellent jump thanks to Campbell’s subtle tell.
In the end, Mario struggled with the speed rush most of the game and didn’t make any good plays to redeem himself. It wasn’t nearly as bad as previously suspected and he improved significantly later in the game.
Langston Walker (+1, -4) Overall -3
He had trouble with speed, was pushed around by the bull rush and consistently allowed the Titans into the backfield. He had one excellent run block that sprung McFadden for a few extra yards, but one decent play is not enough to forgive his transgressions.
Jared Veldheer (+1/-4) Overall -3
When four of the duds are on the offensive line things aren’t going well. A bad snap, two penalties are enough to doom any center. Since Veldheer was playing his first game at center in a long time and it was his first NFL game, he gets a pass. He did do some solid run blocking which was a significant improvement over Samson Satele.
Richard Seymour (+8/-1) Overall +7
At least the Raiders are getting great play out of their 2011 first-round pick. Seymour was absolutely mashing the excellent Titans offensive line. Seymour was a big reason why the Raiders contained Chris Johnson well early. It come as no surprise that Seymour was held on Chris Johnson’s 76-yard touchdown run. His lone poor play coming when he was blocked out of the hole on Javon Ringer’s 15-yard touchdown.
Darren McFadden (+10/-1) Overall +9
What a great day for Darren McFadden. He use his speed, he stiff armed defenders and made them miss. McFadden even ran over smaller defenders in route to 150 total yards. He dropped an easy dump off pass for Campbell, but had a great day. This is the player the Raiders thought they drafted three years ago.
John Henderson (+4/-1) Overall +3
It gets harder to find studs after the first two, but Henderson was clogging up running lanes on just about every snap he played. A great addition to the Raiders defense should pay dividends as the season progresses.
Stanford Routt (+4/-1) Overall +3
Routt had tight coverage and came up in run support the entire game. He played to expectations for once. The Raiders will be looking for Routt to continue his solid play.
Cartwright (+1/-0) Houston (+1/-0) Scott (+2/-2) Gallery (+1/-2) Murphy (+1/-1) Eugene (+1/-3) Z. Miller (+1/-1) Kelly (+1/-1) C. Johnson (+0/-1) Shaughnessy (+2/-1) Alford (+1/-1) Asomugha (+1/-0) Loper (+1/-0) Heyward-Bey (+1/-0) Huff (+2/-4) Wimbley (+1/-1) Barnes (+0/-1) Groves (+2/-3) McClain (+5/-5)
Overall Team (+61/-59)
*Each grade is based not upon offense or defensive failure, but upon above or below average plays. Good examples would be a running back breaking a tackle, a lineman getting a big block to spring a player free, a tackle for a loss, missed tackles, poor coverage, bad reads, etc.
Nnamdi Asomugha is a lock to start when healthy. No surprise there, but what about the rest of the secondary?
Chris Johnson is penciled in as the starter opposite Asomugha, but he was picked on last year. Quarterbacks completed 64% of passes thrown at Johnson. He was burned for six touchdowns and quarterbacks had a staggering 101.2 rating throwing at Johnson. Johnson did defense 12 passes and intercept 3 others, but it is clear Johnson takes a lot of risks.
Is the risk worth the reward?
The Raiders only other options at cornerback are rookies and Stanford Routt.
Routt was actually worse than Johnson in limited snaps. Quarterbacks had rating of 123.0 while completing 29 passes out of 41. That is 70.7% completion percentage! He also gave up two touchdowns.
The Raiders have one good option: move Michael Huff to cornerback.
Huff was a corner prospect coming out of college. Many teams thought he was best suited in coverage to cover up his inability to tackle. Raiders forced a square peg into a round hole the first few years, with Huff playing strong safety.
Finally, Huff was moved to free safety, but he hasn’t really developed into a good safety either. He has his moments and many people forget that he had a great start to the 2009 season, but was less than spectacular the rest of the way. His saving grace is his coverage skills. His run support has improved, but is still well below average.
Why not put Huff’s coverage skills to good use and move him to cornerback? After all, quarterbacks only completed 45.7% of passes thrown at Huff with no touchdowns for a rating of 34.2. Huff picked off three passes in his first two games and that was it, but he continued to be effective in coverage with 11 passes defended.
With Huff out of the picture at free safety, it opens up the free safety position for Tyvon Branch.
Branch had a very good year in both run coverage and pass coverage. He would need to take a developmental leap from defending tight ends to the slot receiver, but he is more than capable with his speed.
2009 second round selection Michael Mitchell was actually very good in limited snaps in 2009 and could be primed to see significantly more snaps at strong safety. To accomplish this, the logical move would be for Branch to slide over to free safety.
It is expected for a second round selection to be a starter by year two and it looks like Mitchell could be ready.
Mitchell wasn’t forced into coverage much during his rookie season, which makes this area of his game a bit of an unknown. He was thrown at just six times.
This recommendation probably comes a year early. Logically, Mitchell will probably be used more as a hybrid linebacker with the coaching staff easing him into coverage responsibilities slowly against the tight end. They would do the same with Branch, having him slowly start to cover more slot receivers as the 2010 season goes on.
This is something to monitor during camp. Expect Branch and Mitchell get a lot of work in coverage and watch closely for Branch defending slot receivers or lining up as the free safety on the weak side.
*Special thanks to Profootballfocus.com for the great stats.
- Check out the links section for a video link to ESPN’s 30 for 30 Straight Outta L.A. directed by Ice Cube.