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Safety-challenged

Will this be the year the Raiders either sign or discover a playmaker or a big-hitter to play safety?

The safety class is not considered particularly strong. When the first round is complete, Miami’s Kenny Phillips could be the only named called, and it’s possible no safeties at all will be taken. Alabama’s Simeon Castille was an intriguing playmaker for Nick Saban at Alabama who played cornerback but seemed to do his best work inside as a nickel corner and safety.

Other than one last great year out of Rod Woodson in 2002, safety play has been a problem for the Raiders since they came back to Oakland in 1995. One of their more remarkable accomplisments was making it all the way to the AFC championship game in 2000 with Marquez Pope and Anthony Dorsett manning the last line of defense.

Stuart Schweigert was displaced by Hiram Eugene as the starter last season, and it wasn’t much of an upgrade. Eugene missed tackles at roughly the same rate as Schweigert. Michael Huff has one interception in 32 games at strong safety.

At the season-ending press conference, Lane Kiffin hinted that Huff, slightly built for a strong safety and more of a form tackler than a big hitter, might be on the move to free safety. Since then, it remains to be seen just how much input Kiffin will have with regard to Huff or anyone else, and two league sources said during the week that it is no secret in league circles that Huff is available by trade.

I’m skeptical about pulling that off, because the Raiders, the justifiable Randy Moss giveaway aside, usually ask for way more than teams are willing to give and Huff, while decent in coverage against tight ends, has not been a playmaker or much of a help in the box stopping the run.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer