When the Raiders lost safety Nate Allen in the season opener, it made an already weak secondary even weaker. And to make matters worse, Charles Woodson dislocated his shoulder at the end of that same game. And after one week, the Raiders secondary was already in some serious trouble. He returns from partial season injured reserve this Sunday and his importance can't be undersold.
"Having Nate Allen back really strengthens our secondary, makes us better in every way, and we welcome him with open arms," said Ken Norton Jr.
That is not an overstatement by Norton. Having Allen back doesn't just strengthen the safety position, it strengthens the secondary and really the entire defense -- a defense last is ranked dead last against the pass, giving up a league worst 314.6 passing yards per game.
Several different defensive backs have filled in for Allen during his absence. Initially it was Taylor Mays getting the start. The following week the team moved TJ Carrie over from the cornerback spot to play safety. Carrie is the team's best corner so his shift weakened the cornerback unit for the betterment of the entire secondary.
Last week Carrie was out with an injury as well, leaving the team to start Larry Asante.
Carrie is back at practice this week and should play Sunday when the Raiders host the Vikings. This means Allen's return strengthens both the safety and cornerback unit as Carrie is expected to return to playing cornerback. Carrie brings some added experience back to corner.
"It just makes him more versatile," Norton said of Carrie. "I think he understands the game not just from a corner standpoint, not just from being a safety standpoint, seeing the whole field as opposed to just seeing a side of the field. He's involved in the run game as a safety as opposed to not as a corner. He's learned a lot about football and he's a better football player because of it."
With the way the secondary has been giving up yards through the air this season, and especially last week against the Steelers, they need all the help they can get. No one is saying Nate Allen is an elite safety. He doesn't have to be elite to be the key to a significant upgrade to this flailing Raiders secondary.