In 2015, the New Orleans Saints were the NFL’s best passing team.
Quarterback Drew Brees & Co. averaged 310.6 yards passing per game. Brees led the NFL in passing yards with 4,870, while throwing for 32 touchdowns vs. just 11 interceptions.
So, the Raiders’ revamped secondary will get a stern test in its season opener Sunday at New Orleans (kickoff is 10 a.m. in the Bay Area).
The starting cornerback tandem of Sean Smith and David Amerson and safeties Reggie Nelson and Nate Allen (who beat out No. 1 pick Karl Joseph) will have to contain Brees and a receiving corps that includes wideouts Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and tight end Coby Fleener.
Cooks, especially, is a game-breaker. He’s smallish by today’s NFL standards at just 5-foot-10, but had eight touchdown catches over the Saints’ final nine games last season and had 1,138 yards for the year.
“It’s going to definitely be a challenge,” Amerson told reporters this week. “I think as a competitor, these are the kinds of games you live for. You’re going up against … the best quarterback, the best passing offense, and as a secondary. If you really want to test yourself and see how good you are right now, and see how good you can be, this is the perfect game to just go out there and compete.”
The Raiders hope the addition of Smith and Nelson, both from free agency, can make a huge difference in the team’s pass defense in 2016. Last season, the Raider ranked 26th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 258.8 yards per game and 25 touchdowns.
Sunday is a chance to show this is a different and better Oakland defense.
“I think it’s important for us to go out there and really give the fans something to be excited about,” said Amerson.