In this edition of Four Down Territory, we delve into a few Raider topics that inquiring minds want to know. As usual, Bret and I will be attacking the questions like vicious wolverines. The Raiders would like their own wolverine defense to be able to attack with this kind of ferociousness. That defense could be without two starters in Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff. Rod Woodson will try to make up for their losses. We will go from Wolverines to Buckeye quarterbacks. But let’s start with who we think will have the best rookie season.
1st down – Which rookie has the best year in 2011?
Dizzle’s Take: I will have to cheat a little on this one. I will say that round five pick Denarius Moore will have the better season to start out with. He will be a great possession receiver for the Raiders and will sneak up on a few teams early on. By midseason, however, I think Stefen Wisniewski will have settled into the offense and finish as the best rookie on this team. Both players should have great careers.
BA’s Take: I could go all obvious here and say that it’s going to be the center, Stefen Wisniewski. But I won’t. I’m going to do this by which rookie I would like to see have the best year. Which one do I think is going to be able to surprise some folks this year? If you look at the past two Raider drafts, the “rookies of the year” if you will, were wide receivers — Louis Murphy in 2009 and Jacoby Ford in 2010. If those two turn out to be studs and not duds, then this year’s player won’t be a wide receiver… most likely. I’m going to go defense this year. There’s a good chance that the Raiders might end up with holes in the secondary, and somebody is going to have to step up. I’m going with DVD, Demarcus Van Dyke.
2nd down – Can Rod Woodson make up for the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff?
BA’s Take: If one of the four cornerbacks that the Raiders have drafted in the past two seasons steps up and plays like he is a man this year, Rod Woodson will get some of the credit for that. If one of these young guns can show some promise then it probably will have a lot to do with Rod Woodson. However, this is Rod Woodson’s first year as a coach, so to expect a miracle is asking for a lot. Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff were starters in this defense for a combined 13 years or something like that. Bottom line is that’s a lot of experience for the coaches to replace. I think it’s too much, it’s unrealistic, and it really downplays the importance of these two to the secondary if you think Woodson can make up for that. If the Raiders are lucky, perhaps he’ll lace up for them.
Dizzle’s Take: Rod Woodson will not be able to make up for the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha. There isn’t a coach in the NFL who could make up for the loss of the best cover corner in the league. As for Huff, replacing him will be easier but mainly because the team has a lot of depth at the safety position. There are guys waiting for their shot to step up and replace him. Woodson will help in coaching up guys like Stevie Brown to help him tighten up his game. As a whole, the loss of Asomugha and Huff will be made up by the defensive line coach. The Raiders will need to keep consistent pressure on the quarterback to make the secondary’s job easier.
3rd down – The Raiders’ three-safety nickel package has been dubbed the “wolverine defense” – you like it?
Dizzle’s Take: The Raiders have been running the “wolverine” defense off and on for years. It involves taking out the strong side linebacker and replacing him with a safety to add more speed. The Raiders are well prepared for this with Mike Mitchell in the mix. He is a big, hard hitting safety and that is how the Raiders like to deploy him. Stevie Brown (a former Michigan Wolverine) and Jerome Boyd both played linebacker in college so they are ideal for the wolverine package as well.
BA’s Take: I like it, I think it’s cool in the age of the dimes, quarters, and nickels. It fits in with building a bully because nobody wants to be attacked by a wolverine. A question that I pondered for a moment was, will the three safety package go out the door with defensive coordinator John Marshall? But then I remember that this is Al Davis’ defense, so if he invented it or something then it is definitely staying in there this year. Really the Raiders defensive coordinator is only there to teach skills and call plays, not to formulate a defensive game plan or create plays or packages. All of that is Davis’ job. Still it would have been nice if it was dubbed something pirate related, like the skull defense or ARRRRRR!
4th down – Which former Ohio State QB would you rather see in Silver and Black, Terrell Pryor or Troy Smith?
BA’s Take: Without a doubt, it’s Troy Smith for me. Don’t get me wrong, though, because I really, really, really like Terrell Pryor. I think Pryor could be better than most of the quarterbacks who were drafted in the first 11 picks this year. But he’s a project – a big time project. I don’t think Al Davis has the time to deal with all of the current Buckeye drama either. Still, the Raiders could perhaps get Pryor in the supplemental NFL draft for a little as a fourth round pick or so. On the other hand, Smith is a veteran at this point, and he is a hungry and healthy veteran. I’ll take that over a pure rookie with off the field issues any day.
Dizzle’s Take: To me this is a no-brainer: Troy Smith. He is much more accomplished and a far more complete quarterback. Equally important is character, something Smith excels in and Pryor has serious concerns. Pryor has always struggled with his accuracy and his ability to throw on the run. Smith has the ability to escape the pocket and then set his feet and throw. Pryor usually has to decide whether he is going to throw or run. Then there is the scandal at Ohio State; he is one of the biggest offenders. He was busted for selling merchandise for tattoos and suspended. Now he is known to have driven five different “loaner” cars from a local dealership. This latest scandal led to Jim Tressel resigning and now Pryor, facing additional suspensions from the NCAA, is leaving college and entering the supplemental draft. He is big trouble both off and on the field.