The Raiders signed
today 9 year vet Strong Safety Donovin Darius to a 3 year/$7.1M contract. Double D has been injury plagued the last 2 season
but if healthy, he should provide solid run support and veteran leadership. DD's tackling prowess & physical nature is his true calling card.
It will be very interesting to see how Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan incorporates DD into the defensive backfield. Last year's safety starters, FS Stuart Schweigert & SS Michael Huff, played solid, consistent football but the knock on both was their inability to be "playmakers". Neither player tallied a sack, interception, or created a fumble. Many in the Raider Nation view Schweigert as a poor tackler and Huff as more of a true Free Safety. Before training camp has started and with DD's recovery from a calf injury uncertain, speculation is running rampant that Schweigert will be the odd man out. Safeties such as veteran Jerrod Cooper, Rookie Eric Frampton and 2nd year man Darnell Bing will need to scrape and claw to make the final 53 man roster in a special teams capacity.
One defensive scheme and personnel package that I anticipate being used frequently in obvious passing downs is the "Big Nickel" or "Wolverine" D. In this package, Rob Ryan will use 3 safeties and 2 cornerbacks. DD would be in the box while Huff & Schweigert would bracket one half of the field in coverage. Having a deep, talented group of players in the defensive backfield will create a fierce competition plus allow Rob Ryan to become the mad scientist ... mixing and matching his defensive personnel packages to negate an opponent's strengths and tendencies. For example, when the Raiders square off against teams with talented Tight Ends (ie. San Diego's Antonio Gates & KC's Tony Gonzalez), Ryan will be able employ Huff vs. the Tight End in coverage. Against teams with strong run tendencies, DD is a very nice piece to have supporting the front 7. As the 8th man in the box, DD will do what he does best ... hit like a ton of bricks.6 pack of questions to ponder ...
(1) Will DD's health be an issue?
(2) If healthy, will DD earn the starting SS position with Huff sliding over to FS?
(3) Will DD provide a sorely lacking intimidating presence to the Raiders D?
(4) Will Rob Ryan cut DD loose on safety blitzes to create more sacks & turnovers?
(5) If demoted to a part time player, how will Schweigert respond?
(6) Will Cooper be cut? Will Bing or Frampton be designated to the practice squad?"Raise the Black Flag, load the cannons, and welcome the new Raider marauder, Donovin Darius!"