I know that run stopping is supposed to start at the defensive line. The defensive line needs to hold their ground against the offensive line and that is supposed to help the linebackers identify the play, get in there and clean it up. However, I also understand that there will be times when the running back breaks a tackle and takes it to the next level of the defense or the front seven doesn’t even get a hand on him, as was the case with Forte.
But I also think that Michael Huff needs to work more exclusively on his tackling again. This has been an ongoing problem for the former number seven overall pick in 2006 from Texas. When Tom cable first took over as Raiders head coach, Huff ended up being benched for his poor tackling and for about half of that season was relegated to a back-up role and special teams play to help work on his tackling. In 2009, the Raiders still were not confident enough in his ability to tackle to make him the full time free safety starter and he was delegated a passing down specialist.
Maybe Huff is good in coverage, but he is certainly not phenomenal. He is not a shut down safety. He made some nice interceptions at the beginning of the 2009 season, but fell off at the end and started to get slowed and annoyed by nagging little injuries. Huff now has two weeks to get better at bringing down running backs that are barreling at him at full speed before the Raiders head to Tennessee to face the Titans’ Chris Johnson who lead the league in rushing in 2009 while becoming only the sixth player in NFL history to go for 2,000 yards.
Now, I know the Raiders may not think that Mike Mitchell is ready to take over a full time starting gig, but at this young part of the season, Michael Huff’s lack of ability tackling has got me thinking that a Mitchell-Tyvon Branch combination in the defensive backfield may be the better option, at least on first down and second and short situations. Here’s what the bottom line is, Huff has got to improve, or he is just going to continue to get torched.
Someone tweeted last week that one of the reporters watching practice said, “Getting burned is Michael Huff’s forte.” I tweeted to Huff and asked him what he thought about that, but I got no answer from him, of course. My purpose in the tweet was not to be mean, cause drama, or get a response from the young man, it was simply to motivate him and light a fire under his a$$.
Huff made a better play when he attempted the Gore tackle this week than he did on the Forte run last week. He at least slowed the runner down so that teammate Tyvon Branch could catch him from behind. I cannot say that we’ve seen all the stuff this Raiders defense will have to offer this year, but if Huff continues his poor tackling technique, then he could be in for another season of splitting time with a more physical run stopping safety like he split time in 2009 with Hiram Eugene.
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