Thearon W. Henderson
The Raiders play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday-a team which has shown strong passing attack of late. And Raiders free safety turned corner, Michael Huff, has some experience with one particular part of that attack.
For seven seasons Vincent Jackson played with the San Diego Chargers and for the final five of those seasons he was their number one receiver. He joined the Chargers as a round two draft pick in 2005 and the next year the Raiders drafted Michael Huff with their top pick in the draft. So twice a season for the past six seasons every time Huff took the field against the Chargers, Jackson lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
This past offseason all that would change as Jackson left as a free agent to sign with the Buccaneers. He returns to Oakland no longer as a lightning bolt but as a Buc.
Huff developed a great deal of respect for the Chargers one time Pro Bowl receiver. He knows what he is up against with Jackson.
"Really a big play receiver," Huff said of Jackson. "They find a way to get him the ball and even if he's covered he gets up and makes a play on the ball. I say with him even if you have great coverage be prepared to play the ball because they'll still throw it up to him."
He said Jackson is like no other receiver he has faced this season since stepping in to play corner.
"Vincent Jackson is just a different animal. Even when he's covered, like I said, they just throw it up to him and he finds a way to make plays. He's been doing it his whole career and he's still doing it at Tampa Bay."
"You can't really scheme (against the jump ball). Those are what we call the 50-50 balls. Those are the balls that are in the air, you and him one-on-one. You got to make the play. There's nothing you can really scheme around that. It's making a play when the ball's in the air."
But though he knows Jackson well, he never had to guard him one on one. He was always playing safety so this will be a great challenge for him.
"I didn't play cornerback when he was [in the AFC West]," said Huff. "I wouldn't say it helps me but I am familiar with him to kind of know the things he likes to do but it's a whole new offense so... He's playing real well right now... I'm familiar with him a little bit."
Huff expects to see a lot of Jackson on Sunday. And when he lines up against him, he expects the ball will come his way.
"If I was their offensive coordinator... I'm sure they'll see a safety outside and they'll put him out there every snap probably. They'll just try to test me... they see me out there they're gonna put their best receiver outside."
But Huff invites the attention from the opposing quarterback. His switching positions may cause an offensive coordinator to test him but his play of late says he is up to the challenge.
"The more times they test me the more times I have chances to make plays so that's how I look at it. The more balls I get, the more chances for interceptions so I always welcome the challenge."
Huff has actually faced a big time NFL receiver in Roddy White and played quite well. He did that with two weeks to prepare. He has had six years to prepare for Jackson and will get a real test to see if that experience has helped him at all.