Johnson will be a marked man


Opposing passers have approached the Raiders like a shooting gallery in arcade game, with the most inviting target being the cornerback opposite Nnamdi Asomugha.

The Carolina Panthers will be no different Sunday when they visit the Raiders at the Coliseum.

With Al Davis having given up second- and fifth-round draft picks and $8 million for eight games worth of DeAngelo Hall before determining he wasn’t even remotely the lockdown corner they anticipated, they turn to a 29-year-old minimum wage journeyman making his second career start.

“I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for five years,” Chris Johnson said.

An undrafted free agent out of Louisville, Johnson spent two years with the Green Bay Packers and never got into a game because of leg injuries. His most extensive playing time was with St. Louis in 2005, where he had one start and played in 14 games.

Signed as a free agent last year, two things appealed to the Raiders about Johnson. Johnson is fast _ so fast Asomugha believes he’s the fastest player on the team. He also plays special teams, with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in St. Louis, and has played as a gunner with the Raiders.

Not exactly the resume you’d expect for a starting left cornerback, let alone one who must hold up with a good amount of man coverage opposite Asomugha. Johnson will get a heavy dose of what coach Tom Cable called the best set of starting wide receivers the Raiders have faced this season in Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad.

Smith has 33 receptions for 613 yards and four touchdowns despite missing two games on suspension for going Romanowski on teammate Ken Lucas.

Muhammad had 37 recetpions for 507 yards and two scores. Smith is quick, elusive and is on anyone’s list of the five most difficult one-on-one challenges in the NFL. Muhammad is bigger, more physical and an expert in using his body to get position and screen off cornerbacks.

If form holds, the Panthers will take turns with both receivers running at Johnson repeatedly and Jake Delhomme will look to his right and away from Asomugha.

Sounds like a mismatch, unless Johnson is a rare late bloomer at a position where players have usually identified themselves by their mid-20s. A Dallas resident, Johnson spent a month of his offseason along with Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie working with Deion Sanders.

“You’d start at 7:30 in the morning, be on the field for a few hours, then be back at 2 and go until 3:30 (p.m.),” Johnson said. “(Deion) told me to be patient, that my opportunity would come. To have a mentor like that, the best corner to ever play the game in my opinion, is good for me.”

Back to basics for defense

Sounds like there’s been some confusion on defense, and getting ripped for three early touchdowns and 57 carries for 252 yards against Atlanta brought about some changes, according to defensive tackle Gerard Warren.

“That game exposed one of our basic techniques and pretty much that’s what we’re focusing on _ simplifying the defense,” Warren said. “Maybe things were a little too complicated as far as the game plan, so we simplified things. Obviously the defense didn’t mature in the sense that Rob wanted it to. We have to scale it back down.”

Billick: Al needs some help

During an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show, former Ravens coach and Fox analyst Brian Billick said as gently as possible what is becoming increasingly obvious to anyone who has watched the Raiders disintegrate over the last five-plus years.

Davis needs help, and more important, needs to let someone help him. Patrick asked Billick if it would be wise for Jim Harbaugh to leave Stanford for the Raiders.

“The Raiders and Mr. Davis, who is an icon in this industry, need to find someone to partner with to rebuild a very proud franchise. It’s going to take a very special relationship, and I mean that in the sincere sense _ a partnership. I’m not sure who that partner is. Maybe that’s Jim Harbaugh, I don’t know. That’s for Mr. Davis to decide if indeed that’s the direction they want to do.

“But this next relationship does have to be a partnership because there are going to have to be some very hard decisions and some very hard action that is going to have to be taken, and it’s going to have to be done with a partnership. It can’t just be one-sided.”

Parting shot

Spare the faint praise for Davis realizing he made a mistake and then cutting his losses with Hall.

Bringing Hall in was an organizational disaster and cost the Raiders a potentially solid player with the second-round pick they traded away, all for a cornerback who couldn’t play the very technique on which Davis bases his entire defensive philosophy.

It was common knowledge Hall was not a good man-to-man defender, that he gave up too many completions, and that his best work was done breaking on plays out of a zone.

No matter. Davis had visions of Haynes-Hayes II, when what he’d really done was deal for a glorified Phillip Buchanon (who by the way has developed into a solid Cover 2 cornerback in Tampa Bay).

The reality is this _ with defensive backs having been restricted to a five-yard bump zone, playing man-to-man in modern football is much more difficult than it was in the Raiders’ glory years, and even more difficult is finding players as talented as Asomugha who can do it successfully.

Among the players who would have been available to the Raiders with the No. 34 pick which was dealt to Atlanta are the two most productive rookie wideouts in the NFL _ Denver’s Eddie Royal went at No. 42 and and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson at No. 49.

Or they could have had linebacker Curtis Lofton, a solid starter for Atlanta who was selected at No. 37.

Note: In earlier blog I wrote the Falcons took Lofton with the pick they got from the Raiders for Hall. In reality, they used that pick to trade up into the first round and take tackle Sam Baker and selected Lofton with their own choice.

(I’ll entertain the argument that these players wouldn’t have necessarily developed with the Raiders as they did with their respective teams).

Found it amusing that Cable would go out of his way to say Javon Walker, who received an $11 million signing bonus and $1 million in salary, has “elevated his game” of late. Chances are that vote of confidence came from Davis, who is hoping Walker can salvage what looks to be another questionable decision on a player no one else was willing to pay that kind of money.

We’ll see how elevated Walker’s game is when that $5 million roster bonus comes due.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • what we need is time a coach no injuries an o-line a d-line,I guess youre right Voldemort

  • Glutten for Punishment

    lets hope on the 2 lines get some TLC. thats where it all begins

  • Lynn from Snot

    No what we need is a stiff drink right about now. The bar just opened.

  • everybody has got 2 believe in something I believe I’ll have ANOTHER drink =)

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    Hopefully Andrew Walter can get us a spark. I’ve always liked Walter and thought the Raiders needed to stick with him despite struggling in the 2006 season. However, our GM, who is the worst owner in sports, gave up on a young QB with promise. Just like we are probably going to do with our other young QB. Just like we did with Tui…Sigh… That’s water under the bridge. Walter needs to get rid of the ball quickly and HOPE the running game shows up. Walter is fairly accurate and has a live arm.

    The Raiders have a shot, just a shot, if the offense can work on a short field AND the defense is somehow able to slow down the running game. Maybe we can get Delhomme to make a mistake.

    Doesn’t this look like 2006? We have a POS offensive line, Walter at QB and an offensive line coach masqerading as a head coach…

    Where’s the Commissioner?

  • I believe I will have another bong hit

  • typicalraiders

    any sports bar in sacramento show the raider game

  • Ive been hittin the bong too its sunday feelin kinda sunday

  • deja vu anyone???

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    The Raiders have the HIGHEST payroll in the league?!?!!

    They also have the only young QB struggling mightily

    10 coaches in 19 years

    The worst offensive tackle tandem in football history (Cable is supposed to be this genius????)

    Their best receiver is a 7th round pick from San Diego who has started 2 games this year.

    The pass defense is terrible despite having the best cornerback in the league

    The run defense is the third worst in football (30th) and yet the defensive coordinator job remains secure

    The overall defense ranks 29th…terrible, Rob Ryan????

    Their young QB (Russell), unless something changes, is heading down the road that Walter, Tui, Billy Jo Hobert, Todd Marinovich, Steve Beurlein, Marc Wilson…..franchise can’t develop QB’s. Why? See coaching change statistic above!

    And the GM/Owner can’t see the mistakes because of his arrogance!

    Where’s the Commissioner?

  • We need Walter.

    Go Raiders!

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    The Ghost of Robert Comer Says:
    November 9th, 2008 at 9:44 am
    We need Walter.

    Go Raiders
    To bad YOUR owner gave up on him after 2006. Calvin Johnson could have been a nice target. Unfortunately, Kiffin didn’t like him either. Hope Walter does well and the Raiders can find a way to win.

    6 years of this garbage!

    Where’s the Commissioner?

    Where’s the Commissioner?

  • Mike Nolan

    Is the game sold out?

  • What’s the Commissioner supposed to do about it? More to the point, on what grounds is he supposed to do anything? The only possible one would be the vague and open ended ‘for the good of the game’, but that’s a slippery slope that the NFL, I’m sure, has enough sense to avoid. Not only that, but they know damn well that the Raiders would sue and no judge in the world is going to rule against an owner who can show that he’s trying his hardest to win, whatever the results on the field might be.


  • I believe its tounge-in cheek Skloomsh =)

  • Andrews Mom

    DC just threw a 51 yard pass to Johnson

    TD a few plays later

  • Andrews Mom

    Why did DC leave the Raiders?

    Because kiff put him in the doghouse?

  • Nnamdi21

    Left the Raiders because he was a tiny handed fumbling injury machine who wants to start instead of mentor and back up.

  • Kiffin was a fraud.

    Go Raiders!

  • Andrews Mom

    Goos answer!

  • Andrews Mom

    lol good answer

  • Andrews Mom

    He is a weasel too

  • Nnamdi21

    Ufck Kiffin.

  • gilbert

    The Commissioner is at home,kicking back,enjoying the games!He will not single out the Raiders,or any other crappy team,it is what it is!Its up to the players and coaches,period

  • Maryland Raiderfan

    Jerry, what’s with the web site ? your latest post will not come up. Schefter reports more players want to jump ship? WTF If this is true then al is more senile than i thought. Also worrisome is if ASO will not sign a long term deal d/t to the BS in OAKLAND. Possibly our best chance to sign ASO left when KIFF was fired in the TV fiasco.

  • just start walter damnit…no jabusto today please. Jammarcus knows if he leaves the lineup it may be for good, and will try to play if possible.
    Cant wait to see Walter back up and read the defense, something jambusto cant do at all

  • Although a huge Asom fan, have a question for you fans…..if no one EVER tries to pass at the guy because the other side is ALWAYS open, how good is Aso? I believe hes probably the best, but my mind came across this earlier today, he never gets any attention mostly because of his reputation, if the other side was covered 50% of the time how would Aso look? Just hypothetical. Also why is ryan still the d cord? so obvious he sucks Al cant be this stupid.
    Whats Als plan and who has his ear all of a sudden, this “local guy” has made a impact and isnt officially even a part of the team. Someone made the suggestion its Holmgren, man that might be true….him and al could be making moves but cant let it out because hes under contract. If its Holmgren Wowowowow that would be a legit football guy for sure. The thing about Holmgren is the way he does business…if you dont play your gone, and contract holdouts hahaha dont waste ur time

  • post 395 Voldemort no I dont play I wonder if that thief stole my moniker here tho

  • Andrews Mom

    But if we trade Nnamdi we will get 31-0 instead of 24-0

  • how do I,or even can I licence or keep my moniker all 2 Myself???

  • Native

    #21 is worthless at run support hes like the MATADOR in Dallas he should own the defense by now instead of sounding like a little kid!!!
    HELL it took the guy 3 years to get an interception???

  • 909raiderlifer

    Good day Nation.

    eff you mod.

  • oh now I see @@

  • 909raiderlifer

    I will be heading over to the local dive, to watch the game. Although I have this feeling of rather going to the DMV or the Dentist.

  • 909raiderlifer

    Andrews Mom…

    If your boy gets to play today, I have confidence he will do well..

  • watchin new-england-buffalo; it dosent matter who plays QB 4 the pats.,that o-line is very disciplined.with continuity look what happens.AD wants to change systems 2 much.make-up our mind Al so we can get started

  • Senile Kings’ Aricept

    As crazy as this sounds….drafting Nnamdi was a terrible idea … Huh ? What?…The bottom line is because is the ONLY example in recent memory of successfully teaching an athlete to play football, it gives Al Davis amunition that his overall plan will work…As much as I hate the Patriots,( Tuck rule, Belicheat…etc…), you gotta admit that the scheme of drafting football players over athletes has worked out pretty well for them…After our one shining example, Nnamdi, finally “gets it”, he can’t wait to make even more money in free agency….

  • Senile Kings’ Aricept

    ….because HE is the only example…sorry…

  • man could we use a MLB like Vrable

  • we could use a new post jerry mac

  • I can see that logic SKA

  • 909raiderlifer

    NEW POST!!

  • CantstandtheHaters

    dont know HOW i ended up here but while im here i wont go b4 i say hes a PAID man now. CJ that is…

    saying he completly earned it with game-changing performances while wondering if this ever will be read by someone lol!!!