- Gary Horton, Scouts Inc.
For years the Oakland Raiders have put a premium on straight-line speed and athleticism, but often haven't paid much attention to playmaking and production on the field.
Their secondary is a perfect example of this philosophy. The Raiders have a bunch of gifted athletes who look great in shorts, but when they put the pads on they don't make enough plays. In 2005 Oakland's defense intercepted a paltry five passes, an all-time NFL low for a 16-game season. Even though the secondary features a lot of speed and youth, it simply doesn't produce enough. With Charles Woodson headed to Green Bay and Derrick Gibson a disappointment, the Raiders will have a young secondary that needs to grow up fast.
The key to this unit will be rookie free safety Michael Huff, who the Raiders selected with the No. 7 overall pick. For all of their past mistakes drafting defensive backs, the Raiders may have gotten this one right. Huff is a great athlete, with speed and size, but he's also a football player. He has good instincts and reactions versus the pass along with the aggressiveness and toughness to play the run. Huff is already signed and in camp and he could be an impact player.
The key to the Raiders' season could be the progress made by their young secondary.