There aren't many players on the Raiders who have been here very long. Only a handful have survived through the overhaul the new regime has implemented over the past three off-seasons. One such player is Tyvon Branch.
Branch has started more games on the Raiders defense than any other current player over the past five years. But he hasn't started as many career games in a Raider uniform as his secondary mate, Charles Woodson. Yet the two of them have only started one full game together - last year's season opener.
In week two, Branch went out with an injury and didn't return. He tried to come back late in the season but it didn't work out and he was placed on injured reserve.
All the while, Woodson started all sixteen games. Woodson racked up his starts for the Raiders well before Branch was drafted to the team. He spent the first eight years of his career in Oakland after the team made the Heisman Trophy winner their fourth overall pick in the 1998 draft. Ten years later - and two years after Woodson left to sign with the Packers -- Branch was drafted.
Their careers have been like two ships passing in the night.
"I only got to play with him for two games," said Branch of his experience playing alongside Woodson. "but going out there and practicing with Charles is easy. He knows what to look for. I don't have to line him up. He's one less guy I have to worry about out there, and I think he gives me a lot of tips. He always comes to the sidelines like, ‘Hey, what do you think I could have done different on this play?' He has a lot of wisdom."
The two players have a common background as defensive backs. Branch played cornerback in college but the Raiders drafted him to play safety. It's the reason why he slipped to the fourth round of the draft. He has stepped up and played nickel corner on occasion and is known for holding his own in one-on-one match-ups.
Woodson played cornerback most of his career - 14 years actually. He only switched to safety so he could keep playing in the NFL.
"We both play very similarly," Branch continued. "He's more of a ball hawk than I am, but I think I'm more of a hitter than he is, so we balance each other out. We do things differently, but we're very versatile. We both can play inside, outside, play deep."
While Woodson is nearing the age of 38 and entering what is widely seen as the final season (though, he says he isn't approaching it that way) of his Hall of Fame career, Branch is still in his prime and one of the best young defenders on this team.
"Anytime you get your guys back and get them back healthy, you feel better about your chances," said Charles Woodson. "It'll be better for him coming off the injury. You know he's hungry because when you miss time from this game, you know you get a chance to reflect on a lot of things, so having him back, having him be hungry, as I know he is, is going to be great for our defense."
Together they will take one more shot an embarking on a full season patrolling the middle of the Raiders' defensive secondary. If they can both stay healthy, the duo could catch a little lightning in a bottle. Even if only for one season.