The remaking of the Raiders secondary is now complete.
Oakland’s signing of Charles Woodson Tuesday is the latest – and likely final – move by general manager Reggie McKenzie to put together a new defensive backfield that should be far less leaky than the version cobbled together with castoffs and backups in 2012.
Last season, the Raiders had trouble stopping both the run and the pass, but it was the secondary’s consistent inconsistency – giving up big plays throughout the season – that proved to be its most fatal flaw. Without much of a pass rush, Oakland couldn’t put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and the suspect secondary was picked apart, allowing nearly 236 yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks completed 66 percent of their passes, the fourth worst mark in the league.
This offseason, however, McKenzie has rebuilt his secondary. On paper, it looks much more solid.
Woodson will join incumbent starter Tyvon Branch at the safety positions, with Usama Young – last season’s starting free safety in Cleveland, signed as a free agent – on board to provide depth.
At corner, the Raiders have No. 1 pick D.J. Hayden to pair with a pair of free-agent acquisitions in Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter. Jenkins, a former standout with the Cowboys, is a former first-round pick and Pro Bowler in 2009. Porter, who’ll be entering his sixth NFL season, played last season in Denver after four seasons in New Orleans, where he helped the Saints win a Super Bowl. Young, a seven-year veteran, started 11 games for the Browns in 2012 and had three interceptions. Previously, he played for head coach Dennis Allen when Allen was an assistant with the Saints.
As the Raiders go through organized team activities (OTAs) this week and begin working toward the start of training camp in July, the team’s secondary now appears to be one of the team’s strengths rather than weaknesses. Last season the starting cornerbacks were Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell, who quickly were lost to injury, eventually forcing the team to move starting safety Michael Huff to corner. All season, the secondary featured a parade of new faces in new places.
Now, by adding Woodson – the Raider who went off to Green Bay and now has returned at age 36 – Oakland’s secondary should be much improved in 2013.
As Jay Glazer of Fox Sports wrote: “Woodson will join a secondary that is being overhauled for the second straight season and his experience could help the transition.”
In assessing the Raiders’ signing of Woodson Tuesday, Bay Area News Group columnist Monte Poole hailed the move as a terrific addition, saying Woodson will be both a leader and teacher.
“Woodson, even at 80 percent of what he was two years ago, immediately becomes the best player among Oakland’s back seven on defense,” wrote Poole. “And he’s still among the smartest, bravest, most instinctive players in the game.”