There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Raiders’ new secondary. A group that was the most suspect on the team early last season is now looking pretty stout. And this new group will get one of their biggest tests right out the gates in New Orleans from Drew Brees.
Brees runs the league’s top offense and has for the past ten years in New Orleans. He threw for 4870 yards and 32 touchdowns and that was considered a DOWN year for him.
“You watch him play and he’s really, really good,” said Ken Norton Jr. “He understands how to get rid of the ball, really accurate, he has really good tools around him and he’s certainly going to be a challenge for us.”
This defensive secondary has come a long way from last season. Just think about where this team was at one point last season. After the first game of the season the starters were DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, Taylor Mays and Charles Woodson fresh off of dislocating his shoulder. Not ideal.
Compare that to the new group of starters which is completely overhauled from that group. They are led by the starting corners including big free agent addition Sean Smith who teams up with the surprising resurgent David Amerson.
The always confident Amerson sees facing Brees as a great opportunity to show right away what this group is capable of.
“Best quarterback, best passing offense,” David Amerson told reporters this week. “As a secondary, if you really want to test yourself to see how good you are right now and how good you can be, this is the perfect game to go out there and just compete balls to the wall and go after it.”
Smith and Amerson are joined by Pro Bowl veteran Reggie Nelson. The ten-year veteran signed late in free agency, taking over the veteran leadership role at safety with Woodson’s retirement.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve faced him,” Reggie Nelson said after some thought. “but Drew is a good quarterback, great quarterback, I mean Hall of Fame quarterback. He does a lot of great things. He just does a great job of leading his group and he’s been doing that for a while now. I think he’s been in the league now for, what, fifteen years.”
To refresh Nelson’s memory; he has faced Drew Brees twice in his career. Once as a rookie in 2007 while with the Jaguars and the other time in 2010 while with the Bengals. The second meeting he even picked off Brees (it was a good one, too. See it here).
Sean Smith also faced Brees as a rookie in 2009. The Saints won all three meetings.
Nate Allen has never faced Brees in his six years in the league. He will get his first shot Sunday because he was named the team’s starting safety ahead of rookie Karl Joseph.
Imagine that, actually WINNING a starting job in the Raiders’ secondary as opposed to just piecing together a group from what’s around. Former starters DJ Hayden and TJ Carrie are still on the team, they’re just down the depth chart.
For Allen, or any of the others in the Raiders secondary, they don’t have to have faced him to know what they’re up against.
“Drew Brees is Drew Brees, you know?” said Allen. “He’s a smart guy. He knows sometimes the defenses better than the defensive guys do. So, we gotta give him some different looks and try to confuse him a little bit. Hopefully capitalize on some mistakes.”
Despite the respect Brees receives from his opponents and will receiver Sunday from the Raiders, he isn’t infallible. The advantage the Raiders have is the unknown. There isn’t any tape to study one these four guys playing together and the Raiders 2016 scheme. As Nate Allen said; the Raiders will attempt to use that unknown to confuse Brees into making mistakes.
What it comes down to is a learning experience. Either by getting lit up by Brees or by holding tough against him.