Banking on Shut Down Corners
The eventual signing of DeAngelo Hall is on the horizon. It is always exciting to land a supremely gifted young player like Hall who has played at an All Pro caliber level in 2 of his 4 season in the league. Here's the scouting report on DeAngelo Hall:
Hall has an excellent combination of quickness, speed and agility. He routinely matches up with the opponent's top receiver. He is tough, physical and confident. He has the ability to be a very effective press cornerback. He can reroute and disrupt the timing of a receiver with his jam. He plays with good body position on vertical routes and has the speed to run with any receiver in the league. He has very good ball skills and hands. He will make the difficult pick and is a dangerous threat with the ball. He has very good man-top-man cover skills. He is aggressive against the run and will attack the ball from an outside-in position. He is an effective ankle tackler. But Hall is inconsistent for an elite cornerback and tends to play fast and loose. He sometimes lacks focus in zone coverage and can get lazy with his technique. He allows too many completion in front of him. He takes chances on the back end in coverage. He is a bit reckless and undisciplined in run support. He will throw his body at a runner. He sometimes loses outside leverage on the ball.
A Few Questions To Ponder:
(1) Is this mega deal the best way to utilize the team's cap space?
Constructing a 53 man roster is like putting together a complicated jig saw puzzle. The key is identifying your team's weaknesses, upgrading the talent level, and spending your cap dollars on player who can make the biggest positive impact. Getting the most "bang for your buck" is the simplest way to put it. Managing your cap space means spending your dollars wisely to set yourself up for the following years.
(2) Is the pairing of Hall and Asomugha Al's way of trying in vain to recapture the magic of Hayes and Haynes?
This isn't 1983. In 1983, the Raiders ran a 3/4 defense and had 3 eventual Hall of Famers (Long, Hendricks, Haynes) and numerous Pro Bowlers (Millen, Martin, Hayes). Here's the 1983 SBXVIII defense in comparison to the projected 2008 lineup:
1983 Defensive Edition
75 Howie Long LE
62 Reggie Kinlaw NT
77 Lyle Alzado RE
83 Ted Hendricks LOLB
55 Matt Millen LILB
51 Bob Nelson RILB
53 Rod Martin ROLB
37 Lester Hayes LCB
22 Mike Haynes RCB
36 Mike Davis SS
26 Vann McElroy FS
2008 Defensive Edition
56 Derrick Burgess RDE
63 Gerrard Warren DT
93 Tommy Kelly DT
98 Jay Richardson LDE (or possibly Vernon Gholston #4 pick)
53 Thomas Howard WLB
52 Kirk Morrison MLB
55 Robert Thomas SLB
21 Nnamdi Asomugha LCB
XX DeAngelo Hall RCB
28 Girbil Wilson SS
24 Michael Huff FS
(3) How will the Hall signing impact the Raiders ability to sign Asomugha long term?
Assuming we are able to sign Asomugha to a long term deal equal to or greater than Hall's deal, is it prudent to spend $20M a year to secure the services of your 2 corners? This move reminds of when SF traded for Neon Deion Sanders. The BIG difference though was SF was already one of the top teams who was adding the cherry on top to an elite team. The Raiders have been cellar dwellers for 5 seasons straight. I believe the Raiders need to take the approach of a bricks and mortar approach. Our Run D and OLine are far from being finished products or top groups. A CB is dessert. DL & OL are meat and potatoes.
(4) In what ways will the Hall signing impact our key defensive deficiencies?
(a) Run Defense: Ranked #32 in the NFL (4.8 YPC) > The Raiders defensive scheme will be to allow Hall & Asomugha to play man to man coverage. The other 9 defenders will have greater latitude to play the run and be positioned closer to the line of scrimmage. Safeties Huff & Wilson should have free reign to support the run. Our DTs (Kelly, Warren, Sands, Joseph) will need to raise their level of play and do a better job clogging the middle.
(b) Turnovers Created: Ranked #21 in the NFL (18 Ints; 8 fumbles) > The "trickle down" effect of signing Hall is that the opponent's QB will find it very difficult to avoid Asomugha's side of the field. I am expecting Asomugha to rack up between 5 to 8 INTs in 2008. It will be imperative for Michael Huff to maximize his ball hawking skills at FS. Of course we are literally banking on Hall demonstrating his playmaking and return skills to make a difference.
(c) Pass Rush/Sacks Created: Ranked #28 in the NFL (27 sacks) > There is no question that by having the best CB tandem in the NFL, there will be more opportunities for the Raiders to put the opponent's QB on his back. First, it creates a platform for Ryan to blitz more liberally. Secondly, the sticky coverage of the DBs will force the QB to hold on to the ball a second or two longer. On obvious passing downs, it is imperative for Ryan to mix in some exotic blitz schemes to aid this cause and keep the QB guessing where the pressure is coming from. Thomas Howard, the fastest LB in the entire NFL, should be utilized as a blitzing edge rusher. Both Huff and Wilson can quickly converge on the QB from a variety of angles.
Clearly the ball is in DC Rob Ryan's court to employ a D that is both aggressive and unpredictable. He will need to trust Hall/Asomugha to be on an island and turn the other defenders loose to attack the line of scrimmage, get after the QB, and dictate the action on the field. You got your hair cut Rob. Now how bout' cutting the dogs of war loose?
The signing of Hall is an exciting acquisition but you have to wonder if it will create headaches and cap woes that were completely avoidable. For Al's sake, I'm hoping he gets a solid return on his numerous off season investments.