The Raiders entered the 2011 draft with several positions that could use an upgrade. A few of those positions were on the defensive side of the ball but the Raiders ended up addressing just one position on defense — cornerback. After the draft Hue Jackson made clear his thoughts on why no other defensive positions were addressed.
“On our defensive football team, I expect us to be one of the best defenses in football,” said Jackson. “And I’m not just saying that. I believe that. We have some tremendous, tremendous players over there… I think the message that’s sent is that we’re pretty solid over there on that side of the football.”
The Raider defense was indeed improved last season and one could argue that the only position in a state of desperation is the cornerback spot. All Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha looks to be moving on whenever free agency begins and the two rookie corners the team drafted last year, Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, have yet to show enough promise to make the staff comfortable with them.
Jackson gave the one caveat that sums up the Raiders’ plans in this draft and every other draft — it’s all about cornerbacks.
“Cornerback here for the Oakland Raiders will always be a position that we address. We love guys who can cover, we love guys who can run, we love guys who are athletes, who can play several different spots back there in the secondary… I don’t think you can ever have enough good corners.”
The Raiders demonstrated that philosophy when they grabbed the fastest player in the draft, CB Demarcus Van Dyke out of Miami, in round three and later added Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa in round four. In between, the team traded into the lower third round to grab offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale out of LSU.
Outside of Van Dyke and Chekwa, the team went offensive with two offensive linemen, a running back, and three receivers. Their top pick was center Stefen Wisniewski, followed by Barksdale, running back Taiwan Jones, then wide receiver Denarius Moore out of Tennessee, and tight ends Richard Gordon out of Miami and USC’s David Ausberry.
Hue Jackson is an offensive minded coach having served as wide receivers coach for the Bengals then quarterbacks coach for the Ravens prior to being hired on as the offensive coordinator for the Raiders last season. This offensive mindset was evident in his draft selections.
There were needs at most of those positions so they were good choices. But even before Hue Jackson outright admitted that he thinks the defense is solid, this draft proved his opinion. Or rather the opinion he and Al Davis share. After all, the idea of coveting corners is a longtime ideal held by Al Davis.
But while they were bolstering the offense and focusing on cornerback, I would argue that they could have used some help at several other defensive positions, such as upgrades and competition at outside linebacker, depth at defensive end, and a free safety to replace the likely departing Michael Huff.
But apparently the team is convinced they have those upgrades and replacements on the team already. We will have to wait until August to get a better idea of their thinking.