I love defence and one of the positions on the team I am most excited about seeing the development of this season is the safety position. We have seen some innovative 3 safety looks towards the end of last season when Mike Mitchell was healthy and the talent level as a whole is very high.
Lets have a look at the candidates:
The Good: The development of Tyvon throughout the entire season last year was as a big a highlight for me as any of our victories. Tyvon was as reliable as any player we had on defence didnt get beat deep and was a beast in the box. Tyvonn had 98 tackles last year and 2 forced fumbles (he can straight lay the wood) and Tyvonn had to have been close to probowl alternate consideration and if he can continue working hard and moving forward looks to be a probowl calibre starter for the Raiders for years to come.
The Bad: 0 interceptions - To be a star safety in this league you need to make big plays.
The Good: Our best cover Safety Huff matches up very well on receivers and tight ends based last season he was our biggest ball hawk on defence leading the league in int's early in the year and had 14 passes defenced which was second to Chris Johnson on the team. Can lay the wood and is potentially a great player in this league, he finally showed some flashes last season.
The Bad: Started last season in a blaze of glory and slowly declined back to solid as the year went on, his best is great but I have doubts that he can consistently produce his best week after week. Not as good in the box as other safeties, In 2010 will we get the early 2009 probowl calibre ball hawk or mid to late 2009 solid starting safety?? With Mitchell breathing down at least we know he will have to work his ass off to keep his snaps.
The Good: OK full disclosure Mitchell is my favourite player, I love his intensity and I thought he really started to play well when he was fit towards the end of last season added a dimension to the defence blitzing off the corner in three safety sets in the Safety/LB/Nickel hybrid position, with a full hopefully injury free pre-season under his belt I am expecting a Tyvonn-esque leap in his second season. This dude hits with a ferocity unlike many others and has insane closing speed and range, Huff's coverage ability will mean he will see plenty of the field but as Mitchell improves I can see him potentially taking time from Huff-daddy.
The Bad: Not a lot of NFL snaps on tape so it makes it hard to evaluate so thats probably the biggest question in itself, also as he was mainly used inside the box and on special teams last season it is hard to evaluate his coverage ability so until he proves it that is still a major question. With his closing speed and instincts he should be fine as long as he doesn't whiff on too many tackles going for the big hit.
The Good: Hopefully won't see as much of the field this year with Mitchell's progress, is a decent back up NFL safety. Pretty good in coverage not great against the run, has been a good servant of the Nation for a few years now and he is a valuable asset as he provided good depth and can be a solid starter if required.
The Bad: Hiram is a solid player but not a star in this league meaning him being on the field (discounting injuries) would mean keeping a young potential star player like Mitchell/Huff off it which is counter productive imo.
JEROME BOYD/STEVIE BROWN:
The Good: Young Players who look to get a lot of time on special teams, Jerome Boyd from some accounts stood out at mini-camp.
The Bad: If either of these guys are starting it's all bad.
Overall I am very happy with the talent level at safety with 3 potential stars and some good depth, one thing is for sure we need more takeaways, the addition of McClain should hopefully allow the safeties to sit back a little more and not have to worry so much about the run. I think if a safety has to make 100 tackles in a season the linebackers are not doing their jobs and improved run stopping and pass rushing LB's should in theory result in more interceptions for the DB's.
I love the idea of trying Mitchell and Tyvonn together in pre-season as having two guys with that kind of speed and tackling ability prowling the secondary sounds awesome and both seem to have the instincts to man centerfield on their own when the play only one deep safety which is a lot, they also seem to be somewhat interchangeable between FS and SS which adds a wrinkle to the D where the QB will not know who is coming and who is dropping.
Hopefully Huff can keep improving and along with Nnamdi, the underrated in my opinion Chris Johnson and another young player i am excited about in Walter McFadden we potentially have the most exciting defensive backfield in the league.