Over-reliance on man-to-man hurts Raiders


Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was asked recently about the Raiders’ favorable ranking against the pass, which was fifth at the time and has since climbed to third.

Asomugha noted the 2006 season when Oakland finished the season ranked second (actually first) and said, “I think we’ve always fared pretty well against the pass just because of our style of play, it’s kind of like hit or miss and we’ve been able to hit more times than we’ve missed. With our trouble in the past stopping the run, the pass has really been our strength.”

If only.

(My contention about the 2006 season has always been the Raiders only gave up 150.8 yards per game through the air is that opponents had so little respect for the Oakland offense they played it extremely safe. They knew the Raiders couldn’t score.)

While it’s true the Raiders aren’t giving up a ton of yards against the pass _ at 196.1 yards per game the only teams only San Diego and New Orleans are giving up less _ opponents have found the holes in the Oakland defense repeatedly.

Asomugha continues to be avoided at all costs. Stats, Inc., has opponents throwing his direction 32 times with 13 completions for 205 yards. Beat writer Steve Corkran, who keeps a close watch and double checks his figures with Asomugha, has him giving up only 10 completions in 27 attempts for 166 yards. Most important, Asomugha hasn’t given up a touchdown all season.

This isn’t likely to change for Asomugha if the Raiders maintain true to the Al Davis belief in going with more man-to-man defense than any team in the NFL. Asomugha is shadowing the team’s best receiver more often than in past years _ his matchup with Dwayne Bowe (15 TD receptions) bears watching Sunday _ but it’s simply too easy to see where No. 21 is lined up and go elsewhere.

While there were other issues such as dedication and maturity that were involved, Charles Woodson’s stats exploded once he left the Raiders and joined a Green Bay team that mixed and disguised coverages more often and put him in position to use ball skills that were seldom seen in Oakland. In 106 games as a Raider, Woodson had 17 interceptions and returned two for touchdowns. In 77 games with the Packers, Woodson has 30 interceptions and returned eight for touchdowns.

Woodson’s best season total with Oakland was nine passes defensed. In Green Bay his worst season total is nine passes defensed.

In Oakland, Woodson was regarded as a Hall of Fame talent. In Green Bay, he is a Hall of Fame player.

There’s some truth to the criticism that Asomugha is at times reluctant to take a chance and make a play, but when teams throw in his direction 27 times in 14 games it’s not as if there are a ton of opportunities. The Raiders, assuming they pick up his option, will pay him a minimum of $16.8 million next season to line up up and force defenses to go the other way.

The problem with playing so much man-to-man is it’s hard. It’s real hard. Yet even as the rules changed, favoring the receivers, the Raiders continued to use it as their primary style of pass defense. They’re not exclusively man, but they do it more than anyone else. Opponents talk about it every week on conference calls with the media. The Raiders play man. It’s their calling card.

Never mind that it’s impossible to be physical with receivers the way Willie Brown and Lester Hayes used to, and that you’re extremely fortunate to find tall, stylish corners who can play it like Mike Haynes did or Asomugha does.

The Raiders have given up a 54.4 completion percentage this year, an excellent figure. Stanford Routt has had his best season, is surrendering only 40.4 percent completions (36-for-89) but has given up five touchdowns with one interception. Chris Johnson had a terrific game against indianapolis and gave up a touchdown.

Routt was given a first- and third-round tender, Johnson the recipient of a four-year, $16 million contract a couple of years back.

Strong safety Tyvon Branch has been victimized more than any player in the Oakland secondary. Stats, Inc., numbers show teams are 30-for-41 (73.1 percent) for 409 yards and eight touchdowns going after Branch. Factor in his one interception, and the passer rating against Branch is 134.0. Free safety Michael Huff’s failure to cover Jason Hill man-to-man was crucial in a key loss to Jacksonville.

The Raiders thought rookie fifth-round pick Walter McFadden was ready against Miami, made him the nickel back and he promptly gave up six completions in eight attempts for 141 yards against Chad Henne and a middle-of-the-road passing offense. Seventh-round choice Jeremy Ware is no longer receiving playing time.

In all, the Raiders have give up 29 touchdown passes with only 10 interceptions and an opponent’s passer rating of 90.6. Only eight teams in the NFL are worse, and none of them will make the playoffs unless Seattle beats St. Louis Sunday night.

Keep in mind this is a Raiders team that has been above average in rushing the passer (seventh in the NFL with 40 sacks), a huge factor in an effective man-to-man defense.

It’s not that the Raiders have bad players in the secondary as much as they’re put in impossible situations. There’s a reason no one plays as much man-to-man as the Raiders.

As a cornerstone defensive philosophy in the year 2011, it doesn’t work.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Jerry….

    Interesting reading,but what are the stats for how many flags have been thrown at our corners?

    I can’t look when it’s 3rd and long – you just know we’re going to get a holding or pass interference call against us.

    Your point again…….when you’ve got the people,man-to-man works.When you haven’t it sucks.

  • RaiderRockstar

    anybody know how much the Chiefs are favored to win by?

  • Plunketthead

    It was almost the best year ever.
    a)Beat the discharge twice.
    b)Kicked the dung out of dungeaters twice
    c)Won three straight games
    d)Broke out of the double digit losing season thing.
    e)Came this ! close to being 9- 6 today.
    f)We are about to go unbeaten in division play
    g)DMAC proved all the haters wrong
    h)Had the best ever draft
    i)Cable changed the losing culture stuff
    j)No knuckleheads
    k)No bad press (the media loved kicking Al around)
    l)Went into week 17 with playoff hopes
    m)#2 alltime single season Raider scoring leader?

  • Plunketthead

    The chefs are favored?
    Im outraged!

  • RaiderRockstar

    wow. check this out


    Adam Schefter picks Raiders! LOL

  • Plunketthead

    How about them horned frogs?

  • RaiderRockstar

    Plunk reading posts 353 & 354 tells me you’re a Raider fan …

    I’ve been reading RMR’s posts for 3 years and I’m still not convinced

  • RaiderRockstar

    the Refs & crowd almost ALWAYS play a factor in games at Arrowhead. toss in the fact that DMAC & Seymour may sit this one out …

    Michael Bush, Marcel Reece, Tommy Kelly & John Henderson better be ready to pick up the slack!

    on Defense, KC is gonna send the house at JCamp.

    on Offense, KC is gonna run the ball 50 times unless we shut them down early and score some points

  • RaiderRockstar

    Expect some wacky play calling from Hue Jax this week in hopes to sabotage Tom Cable’s job security and get himself a promotion … Hue gets a broken jaw and the players rally around the Cable guy chanting “Cable Bumaye!”

    … then Al promptly dumps both of them and hires Jim Harbaugh

  • RaiderRockstar

    The Raiders have won three straight games at Kansas City.

    The Chiefs are 7-0 at home this season.

  • Plunketthead

    Maybe we can get the dog whisperer to fix rmr
    He fixes every dog on tv

  • GG

    Imo, with the season over now, we’ll see a lot of passing, more DHB involvement, more WR involvement.

    I agree with some others who have posted thru the year how despite DHB still learning etc, they should be throwing the ball to him more anyway. Having him and Ford running more quick slants from time to time, maximize their YAC abilities by playing some horizontal WCO concepts, mixed in with all the Air Coryell downfield throws. Go more Spread, having 4 and 5 WR sets, bunch sets.

    Cutting it loose haha.

  • GG

    I’m still loling at yesterday’s “Cable is better than Madden, Cable is more X&O than Madden” comments.

  • Plunketthead

    Former G.M. Brian Xanders will reportedly answer to Elway and Schefter reports the first order of business for Elway will be to try to hire Jim Harbaugh from Stanford.

    Everyone wants Jim
    If I was him I would go to Michigan

  • Kirk

    Unplug the cable and find a great quarterback.

    Waive D.H. Bust.

    Draft the best available player chosen thru film study, not 40 times.

    Copy the strategy of the Steelers and the Patriots and dig the late 70s vision of Al Davis.

  • Kirk

    Sorry, ditch not dig.

  • Plunketthead

    I should rephrase that
    I would pick a plum college job or stay at Stanford if I liked raising the family there.

  • Just Fire Baby

    Chiefs are 3.5 point favorites.

    I know again, because I fired up the sports interaction website yesterday, and nailed the Horned Frogs.

    I sure would love to have Andy Dalton in camp next season with Campbell.

  • Just Fire Baby

    Convenient that Bush should see a very heavy workload in his last game before Free Agency for him.

    He seems way slower this year than in years past.

  • Just Fire Baby

    Reading through the 700+ new California laws and this one pops up:

    SB 1411 makes it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone via a social media outlet or through e-mails.


  • Morning all.

    Forget the Cable/Madden stuff.The fact that the Rams/Hawks are playing the late game is the biggest LOL!

  • Reading through the 700+ new California laws …..


    You’ve got to much free time JFB!

  • GG

    Lol Neilb.

    Im tipping Seahawks in that. Division title at 7-9 and hopefully beat a few NFC big shots in the playoffs for further lulz.

  • GG….

    One of my workmates is a big Rams fan so I’ll go with them.

  • GG

    Just as well, he’ll have someone to console him after they lose lol.

  • nycraiders

    Lonetree, comparing Cable to Madden is a joke..Madden never had a losing season..raider natiuon deserves a legit head coach..maybe your fine with shooting for an 8-8 season.. raiders have too much talent to settle for 8-8.. Cable will either be fired this year or next year..the sooner the better..

    Wins Losses Ties
    1969 Oakland Raiders 12 1 1
    1970 Oakland Raiders 8 4 2
    1971 Oakland Raiders 8 4 2
    1972 Oakland Raiders 10 3 1
    1973 Oakland Raiders 9 4 1
    1974 Oakland Raiders 12 2 0
    1975 Oakland Raiders 11 3 0
    1976 Oakland Raiders 13 1 0
    1977 Oakland Raiders 11 3 0
    1978 Oakland Raiders 9 7 0
    Totaling: 103 32 7

  • LOL!!

  • Well,after years of dross 8-8 is like winning the lottery.

  • YoungAmerican

    Kirk Says:
    January 2nd, 2011 at 7:19 am

    …find a great quarterback.


    Oh man, I bet the Raiders wish they’d thought of that one years ago.

  • Hey!!JaMarcus is a great quarterback-get over it.

  • Everyone wants Jim
    If I was him I would go to Michigan


    That deal is done. Go Blue.

  • Nnamdi21

    Never mind that it’s impossible to be physical with receivers the way Willie Brown and Lester Hayes used to, and that you’re extremely fortunate to find tall, stylish corners who can play it like Mike Haynes did or Asomugha does.


    This makes sense and doesn’t.

    Not like there is a derth of Haloti Ngata’s yet teams still adopt 3-4 Defenses. Not alot of Bruce Smith either for that matter. Qbs are hard to find as well but teams still need them. Sure you can scheme to help compensate and I think maybe thats what you’re getting at.

    Interesting theory Jerry but not quite sure it holds up thanks to something yoiu’ve subscribed to in the recent past.

    Its not whats called its how its executed.

    Too many Oakland faliures look like blown coverage and miscommunications rather than the scheme itself run perfectly and being flawed.

    Davis himself insists on diversity but when you build it a certain way you tend to play to those strengths.

  • J Hill

    game is the biggest LOL!

    372.neilb Says:
    January 2nd, 2011 at 8:07 am
    Reading through the 700+ new California laws …..


    You’ve got to much free time JFB!


    He lives in NM and is reading up on Cali laws, lol.

    Migrating back, JFB?

  • TerrapinRaider

    Is Zach and DMC inactive?????

  • Plunketthead

    DMAC & SEymour

  • Dmac is questionable,Miller is probable.

  • Seymour is questionable too.

  • ohioraider

    # priesttj Says:
    January 1st, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Sometimes you guys are so full of HYPE it’s crazy. I’ve wathed this team for over 40 years with average corners and great ones. The bad ones stink and the good ones don’t simple as that.
    No, it’s not that simple. But your analysis is consistently simple minded, and always guaranteed to defend Al against the indefensible. It’s his train, and his train wreck for the past seven years. He is a monumentally poor GM in this era of big bucks, uncoachable prima donnas, and complicated systems.