Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Glass Half Empty: The Secondary

I have a newfound respect for the pessimists among us. It’s hard work, this pessimism stuff. I’m glad that I only committed to a week of Glass Half Empty here at Raider Take. A month of it might kill me off.

I considered selecting the offensive line for Glass Half Empty treatment today, but I just couldn’t do it. I truly expect the offensive line to be much improved this year. I don’t think that we had a talent problem on our offensive line last year, I think that we had a motivation problem exacerbated by a quarterback problem. Barry Sims said he liked Norv Turner, because Turner was approachable. That’s nice. How did Barry respond? He turned into a pillar of salt. Shell, Slater and Eatman will preach accountability, not approachability. Gallery will return to his natural position, and will be given no excuses for failing to take his game to the next level. McQuistan will loom large, ready to pick up slack if necessary. And the entire unit will be invigorated by the presence of Aaron Brooks, who will alleviate pressure on the line through mobility and improvisation, in stark contrast to the immobility and impotence of Kerry Collins.

Oops, sorry…I reverted to optimistic form there for a second.

I am selecting the secondary for Glass Half Empty treatment today. When you are counting on Stuart Schweigert—now entering his third season—to be your Yoda, your wise and grizzled backfield general, then perhaps you’re asking a lot? I’m as jacked up about Michael Huff as the next fan, but the rest of the unit needs to raise its game, right? Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington have shown promise. Jarrod Cooper is okay. Routt is a work in progress. With a defensive front that may still prove to be leaky, we need more than promise. We need consistent execution to shut down the small play before it becomes a big play.

The obsession with speed in our secondary has been tantamount to playing with fire. Derrick Gibson and Phillip Buchanon went up in flames. I’m not terribly impressed with the general notion of speed. You can buy speed by slowing the other guys down with proper angles, disciplined tackling and killer instincts. I don’t recall Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott being track stars. I recall them being vicious.

The Raiders set an NFL record last year for fewest interceptions in a non-strike season. That’s a rather shameful statistic after you’ve loaded up on DBs over the past several drafts. Poor fundamentals plagued our young secondary last year. Things got off to a bad start when Tom Brady sliced them to ribbons in the second half of the season opener, taking advantage of ridiculous cushions. And when Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson broke into the open field last year, both as runners and receivers, it was utter chaos.

So what’s new in our secondary this year? We added Tyrone Poole and Duane Starks. They will add veteran presence and perspective, but it’s doubtful they’ll make a huge difference between the white lines. Darnell Bing was drafted, but he will be converted to OLB. Derrick Gibson was re-signed in what might be construed as an act of desperation.

Oh, and we drafted a guy named Huff. He will make a difference. How big of a difference? The difference between your Glass Half Full and your Glass Half Empty, perhaps?

P.S. Stay tuned for a third installment of Glass Half Empty on Thursday, followed by an unregulated mosh pit of your darkest fears on Friday. For now, let’s focus on the secondary.


Blogger Doobie said...

I was doing just fine this morning until you reminded me of the secondary. Thanks.

5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not concerned about the players. I'm concerned about our defensive coaching staff, in particular the coordinator. As long as Coach Ryan insists on trying to make the players fit his scheme, rather than selecting a scheme that fits the players the defense will struggle. People need to be put into positions where they can make plays and then be coached up concerning their techniques. The secondary is very young, but the potential is evident. Unfortunately there are two things you can't coach: First, you can't coach speed, but that isn't our problem, we drafted speed. Second, you can't coach football instincts, which is why I would prefer that we draft playmakers first and speed second. But, hey maybe the kids will start to put it together with Huff in there to make some big plays.

5:15 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

The secondary will be ok. We improved a little last season and I am expecting Schweigert to become the ballhawk he was at Purdue again.

Nnamdi plays solid coverage but doesn't make interceptions and Fabian imporved greatly throughout the course of last season.

Michael Huff was the missing peice of our secondary. He will be able to generate mismatches and make plays. The offense will have to account for him at all times. Our pass rush should be improved with a healthy Sapp and by adding Johnstone which will greatly improve our pass defense.

Our LBs will also help. Morrison and Clark are tackling machines and if our rookie plays as fast as he ran at the combine, he will be able to handle most of the stuff over the middle.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" As long as Coach Ryan insists on trying to make the players fit his scheme, rather than selecting a scheme that fits the players the defense will struggle. People need to be put into positions where they can make plays and then be coached up concerning their techniques." You stole the words right out of my mouth anon. You can only play and scheme to the strengths of your players. Our players defensively have a lot of inexperience for the majority part, and you cannot teach them the most difficult defensive scheme of the Cover 2, and expect them to play it well. There are defensive schemes that can further help develop our talent to that point, that Coach Ryan is not taking into consideration.
This was the problem with Callahan too, after the Super Bowl handover, and why he's struggling in Nebraska. He's trying to teach young college kids a system that is way over their heads. In the NFL, he even had Gannon, Brown, and Rice confused as to what he was trying to accomplish the year he was let go.
This is where I think Art Shell is going to give a little more guidance to Coach Ryan. Shell is a developer, we saw this in his first go round with the Raiders. Not only with the players, but the coaches.
I think the inexperience of players could hurt us, but like you said, it is how we scheme to their talent, to put them at the right angles to make plays. Something that has been missing on defense since Coach Shell was here last.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually think Ryan did adjust the scheme to the players last year. Do you think he wanted to play a 4-2-5 all year, or was he adjusting the scheme to the players?

I like what I see more often than not when I watch Asomugha and Fabian. But it bothers me that neither of them came up with so much as one pick last year, even with Burgess flying off the edge...

6:35 AM  
Blogger StickUm25 said...

I am less concerned with Ryan. I agree he forced the system the first year, but last year I think he did the best he could with the talent he had. I'd blame him for putting Brayton out of position if we had better alternatives, but looking at who we had in camp last year you'd have to extend the blame for lack of options. The upside is he adjusted well between the 1st & 2nd year, and based on the talent acquisitions it looks like the defense is continuing to improve. Comments that there were fewer mental errors make me optimistic things are coming together.

You have to include run defense when talking about the secondary. From a half empty point of view, I'm concerned that the 3rd linebacker spot will continue to be a problem - causing problems in run support and failing to cover backs in the flat. I'm happy we got the new guys - I just want to see them perform. I also want to see improvement in run support from the safeties. The long gains need to be reduced, if not eliminated.

Pass defense should improve with the arrival of Johnstone and Brayton's return to the DL - can't forget how an effective pass rush can cover up blemishes in the secondary. Still, if Huff is more a tackler than a hitter, we could have a problem. The way receivers ran through the middle last year needs to stop. You do that by knocking them out or picking them off. If there is no fear it's gonna be difficult to increase the INTs.

But my greatest fear? On September 11th, around 7:00pm, watching the defense get introduced, and hearing "starting at safety, Derrick Gibson!"

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RT-always good to start the day with a reference to Jack Tatum, for whom legend has it the term 'jacked up' was coined, as in "wow, Tate realy jacked that bitch up when he came across the middle"... I think Curt Gowdy said this more than once on NBC back in the day.

mad stork--I like Nnamdi and Washington alot also, and I'm not worried about picks. When teams beat us passing last year it wasn't with their outside receivers, it was with the slot guy, the TE or backs delaying out of the backfield. Ryan was onto something putting Woodson on the slot guy or TE, avoiding having the weakest cover DB in that position. When Woodson went down, we were back to having a weak cover guy in that spot [although Routt came on at the end]. We drafted Huff and Thos. Howard to keep guys like Poole and Starks off the slot guy and TE, and to have a cover LB for backs. I know this is glass half empty week, but I think the secondary will be a strength this year [and I think the DB coaching is strong--they took a fast guy like Washington who had really bad technique and he was locking some decent receivers down by the end of the year].

6:53 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

I don't fell we are going to be weak at the weakside OLB position this year. Sam Williams is a stud when he's healthy. If he does get injured, We'll have a speedy rookie in that should help in coverage and could be used as a blitzer as well.

The only real weakness on our entire Defense is DT. After Sapp we have no one really. I foresee us drafting a DT in the first round next season but how good of a guy can you get when your drafting in the 20s.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

Misery loves comapany, perhaps this is why I am loving glass 1/2 empty week. Finally I dont have to suffer through these thoughts alone and can get some sleep at night!

For the life of me I cannot understand why we do not pay a little more than market value for an slightly older experienced safety. Many have hit the market in the recent years and I really wanted them. I too am not concerned by Ryan and am relieved to have a new school coach to compliment our old school coaches who have not coached against new-school defenses. I think he did much better last year and our D seemed to improve.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our secondary can't be worse than last year. Also, I'm looking forward to watching Bing drop back into pass coverage. Washington needs to learn how to tackle, and Routt needs to learn how to play football. That said, I have a good feeling about our secondary.

11:52 AM  
Blogger The Analyzer said...

I really don't think Bing will do much besides special teams this season. Both Williams and our other Rookie OLB will be ahead of him on the depth chart this season.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, kevin, Washington is a solid tackler, and Nnamdi needs to develop a cornerback's mentality; stop playing soft and start watching more old films of The Great Willie Brown!!!

2:27 PM  
Blogger frkyraider said...

glass half empty eh? ok here we go, as we all know nothing is written in stone about rookies starting and making an impact on your team, so lets take a look at the d without the rooks seeing as how each of them could be busts.

now the defensive backfield looks awfully familar to me for some reason.... for one this would mean that stickem25's nightmare would be coming true and radio would be the starting saftey. guh!! quite a reality slap aint it?

and there's something comforting in the fact that we have howard and bing to lean on for help at OLB if, god forbid, anything were to happpen to sam "chickenbones" williams. well i reckon i ought to save that in case RT goes after the LB's during glass half empty week.

wow after looking at it thru my half empty glasses it doesn't really seem as rosey as i was thinkin it did. all that optimism on a few rookies? hmmm, what are you doin to us RT?

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really feel that it all comes down to tackling. Can Coach Shell bring back the physical intensity and teach Nnamdi, Fabian, Stuie, Mike, Thomas and Darnell how to tackle? We've got a very young, very fast backfield and if everyone can just tackle we'll be a pretty good D by the end of the season. Schemes, shmemes. Just hit somebody. I'm hoping that's what Coach Shell brings back. Make them pay for touching the ball.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RT, you're killing me. You know how hard I lobbied for the Raiders to draft a QB at #7 in April, while 99% of the Nation, yourself included fought hard for Huff. Now we get, "Will Huff make a difference, perhaps" ? What does this mean ??
I am expecting an Ed Reed type season from Mr. Huff, and I will be greatly disappointed in anything less.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Raider00, you know that it is my pleasure to serve you a glass half empty!

Don't you half faith in Andrew Walter? Stay tuned!

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point RT, about the glass half empty aspect...I forgot.

I have faith in Walter, just no faith he will ever get in any games.

Huff was picked over, Lienart, & Cutler, so in my mind he must justify it by playing really well right out of the box.

9:52 PM  
Blogger frkyraider said...

i expect good things to come from huff too raider00. but i do think it's unfair of you to hold him to a seperate set of standards then the other two you talk about. if lienart is a stud 5 years down the road then shouldn't huff have the same amount of time to prove to you he's a stud too? but what if he is a stud this year and goes to the pro bowl every year and lienart isn't till lets say 4 more years, but then he's the best, did we make the right pick? i'd still say yes. how bout you?

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frkyraider: I'm not sure what the learning curve is for a saftey, compared to a Qb, but it's a valid point you have made.

All I know is on draft day, we were told that the Qb's were risky picks, so let's go for the sure thing/safe pick, Huff. It didn't take Ed Reed, or Sean Taylor long to make an impact in the NFL. In fact, I believe they were standouts in their rookie yrs.

If Huff is the real deal, we should know very soon. If Huff is a flawed/limited player, & Walter never pans out, or gets playing time, we can only hope that Lieart, & Cutler are not very good.

5:17 PM  
Blogger frkyraider said...

lol, point taken. but by the same token it didn't take long for eli or ben to make their impacts either. pretty rare feats, but so are talyor and reeds.

don't think that i'm not feeling the need for a qb too raider00, i am. but i think walter is at the very least comparable to cutler as far as value when picked, if not for the shoulder injury he may have gone first.

and we have been needing that saftey for quite some time, longer than qb. we caught a tough break when gannon got drilled and have been tryin to fill those shoes every since.

4:33 PM  

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