There were high hopes for David Amerson when Washington drafted him in the 2nd round (51st overall) of the 2013 NFL draft. Just two seasons later they waived him and the cornerback needy Raiders scooped him up.
The 6-2, 205-pounder went on to have a very productive 2015 season for the Raiders in which he finished 2nd in the NFL with 26 passes defended.
That season earned Amerson a 4-year, $35 million dollar extension. Combined with the 4-year, $40 million dollar contract given to free agent cornerback Sean Smith and the Raiders thought they had solidified their secondary. The results were not what they had hoped for, but there are signs things could improve this season.
Time and again last season the Raiders were in a good play call only to have poor execution give up a big play. Secondary coverages require players to work together to take away offensive route concepts. When one player does not cover the proper area or play the proper technique, it provides holes for the offense to exploit.
In the week 2 match up against the Atlanta Falcons, those coverage issues were on full display.
Like on this play were Keith McGill fails to cover his zone responsibility with the proper depth.
On this play, the Raiders are in a perfect Man-2 coverage. McGill doesn’t get deep enough, forcing Amerson to maintain his over technique to prevent a deep pass. This opens up an easy completion on the comeback route. Issues like this are what led to rookie safety Karl Joseph making his first start the following week.
Amidst Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throwing for 396 yards, there were some positive signs from the Raiders secondary.
Take this play for example. Even though the Raiders are playing Man-1, check out how far safety Reggie Nelson is shaded towards Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Raiders were so determined to double Jones that they shaded their “single high” safety all the way to the numbers. This really puts Amerson on an island. He is playing off man coverage with no safety help, this gives the wide receiver half of the field to work his routes. Amerson, however, is able to recognize the post route and break on it, preventing a completion. The Raiders should consider utilizing more man coverages and Amerson is the best man coverage corner currently on their roster.
Utilizing Amerson’s man coverage skills along with added deception should turn the Raiders secondary around in the 2017 season. To go along with the communication issues there were far too many times that the Raiders declared their coverages. Stopping a talented quarterback like Matt Ryan is hard enough, telling him your defensive plan before the play makes it nearly impossible.
Matt Ryan recognized the cover-3 (or McGill completely blows quarters coverage) and most likely knew were he was going to throw this pass before the ball was snapped. Again the Raiders shaded Nelson to Jones side of the field leaving a huge hole deep in the Raiders secondary.
The Falcons used two comeback routes on the outside to hold the cornerbacks and a dig route to hold the underneath coverage. This allowed both tightends to run seam routes virtually uncovered. Matt Ryan completes the easy throw for a big gain.
Again more man coverage based schemes would eliminate many of these coverage breakdowns. It would also allow Amerson to use what is most likely his best skill, his route recognition. This play from the week 7 win over the Jaguars really highlights that ability.
The Raiders are in a perfect play call to defend this corner/out route combination. The route concept is designed to hold the outside cornerback close to the line with a short out route. The slot receiver then runs a corner route with the offense hoping he can win a foot race to the back corner of the endzone.
The Raiders were in a man-2 coverage and had the corner route double covered. Amerson also instantly recognized the route concept. He maintained his coverage responsibility but breaks on the pass the second it is thrown making a great interception. The Raiders could really take advantage of Amerson’s football instincts.
The Raiders added Obi Melifonwu to handle covering the opposing tight ends. This should allow them to use man coverage schemes much more often. Man coverages will free their corners to play more aggressively and in a style that more complements their physical abilities. The secondary will perform more consistently, and Amerson will be a big reason why.
How will the Raiders pass defense rank in 2017?
This poll is closed
Similar to last year (23-27)
Slightly better (18-22)
Middle of the road (11-17)