What position the Raiders position is in: Safety

Thearon W. Henderson

We have now reached the deepest part of the defense and the last defensive position - safety. It is a position the Raiders haven't gotten consistently good play from in quite some time. It was also the home of one of the two returning defensive starters last season. Let's see how the position currently stands:

FS Charles Woodson - 16 starts, 97 tackles (75 solo), 1 int, 3 PD, 2.0 sacks, 3 FF

SS Brandian Ross - 13 starts, 75 tackles (56 solo), 0 int, 3 PD, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF

SS Tyvon Branch - 2 starts (2 games), 5 tackles (4 solo), 0 int, 1.0 sack

S Usama Young - 1 start, 26 tackles (20 solo), 1 int, 3 PD, 2.5 sacks

S Shelton Johnson - Special teams, 4 tackles (3 solo)

The starters at the beginning of the season were Tyvon Branch and Charles Woodson. Then Tyvon Branch was lost to an injury in week two and never returned to the lineup. Woodson on the other hand, started every game.

Branch was the only returning starter in this revamped Raiders secondary. He is considered one of the better safeties in the league and having him on the field would have helped this porous Raiders defensive backfield tremendously.

Branch was replaced by Brandian Ross who was rated as the worst strong safety in the entire NFL. It was a mystery how or why he was starting for this team especially considering they had a more than capable Usama Young available to play the position. It will just have to be one of those great mysteries to which we might never know the answer.

Woodson at 37 years old was an iron man. Starting every single game this season and playing nearly every snap as well, he finished third on the team in tackles. He also had a nose for turnovers. He either forced or recovered five turnovers on the season, one of which he returned for a touchdown which tied a career record for defensive touchdowns. He also showed tremendous leadership off the field which several of his young teammates said was invaluable to their development.

Usama Young appeared in 12 games this season but didn't really see the field a whole lot. When he did, he played pretty well. He led all defensive backs with 2.5 sacks and in his limited snaps had the same number of passes defended as Brandian Ross and added an interception - something Ross could not do.

Shelton Johnson was an undrafted rookie who spent much of the season on the practice squad but was called up late in the season to replace Young once he was placed in injured reserve.

Grade: C-
Team need: Moderate

Tyvon Branch is yet again the only one under contract among this group and his return to the lineup is the biggest boost they could have. Ross is an exclusive right free agent which means he could very well be back but he should not be seeing the field under ideal circumstances. Woodson has said he would like to play one more season and the team has said they would like to have him back. If that can happen, that solves the issue of the two starters. Bringing back Usama Young would be a good idea as well. The Raiders should look to the draft to try and find the heir apparent to Woodson at free safety.

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