Tenth in a series analyzing questions and issues surrounding the Raiders with players reporting to training camp Tuesday and practice starting Thursday:
Can Nnamdi Asomugha do more than than just take a wide receiver out of the game?
There’s nothing wrong with being a shutdown corner. There are very few of them around.
But Asomugha is on an island more lonely than any corner in the NFL, and the Raiders’ defensive philosophy by and large has been to leave him there.
In Asomugha’s last 46 games since he broke out with eight interceptions in 2006, he has three interceptions, 20 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Contrast that with the six interceptions and 31 passes defensed by the Jets’ Darrelle Revis last year alone.
Once upon a time, Charles Woodson held the job Asomugha has now. He was the guy opponents rarely tested, and although there were some wrinkles in the nickel where Woodson was allowed to do more, he intercepted 17 passes in 106 games as a Raider. In his 62 games with the Packers, he has 28 interceptions.
Woodson and Asomugha talk on the phone often, and Asomugha conceded he was a little envious of the opportunities Woodson gets to make plays, but noted, “We don’t do that here.”
Asomugha upgraded his game last year as a tackler, making some physical plays at the line of scrimmage against the run. A former safety, he has the requisite ball skills, and the amount of times he gets to the ball in practice indicate he could do it in a game if the Raiders could be more creative in some of their defensive schemes.
The last year of Asomugha’s contract is in 2011, barring a work stoppage. Asomugha is scheduled to make $16.8 million or the average salary of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, whichever is greater.
Keep in mind that both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady could be up for new deals, so Asomugha’s salary could be in the stratosphere.
Assuming Asomugha has another one-interception season and breaks up a handful of passes on the few opportunities he gets while teams avoid him, do the Raiders pick up the option? If you’re going to pay a defensive player that much, it makes sense to do more with him.
With Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston added to a defense which in theory should be better against the run, it should enhance the pass rush because of more second-and-long and third-and-long situations.
Less time to pass means more mistakes from quarterbacks, and changing things up with Asomugha, rather than have him anchored to one side, would result in more plays made by a player dying to make them.
We’ll get an idea in training camp if there are plans to unchain Asomugha.
Previous camp questions: