Getting the Raiders into better shape financially is a short term project for Reggie McKenzie with long term implications. Getting the Oakland Raiders into a better shape defensively to compete is an immediate task for Dennis Allen. Problem is the Raiders are not in a position to acquire the top notch talent necessary to get their defense on par with the offense.
The bigger problem is that beyond this season there isn’t a lot to work with in terms of the defensive secondary.
Both Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer are short term solutions as evident by their one-year deals. Michael Huff is pretty much auditioning for his job under a new regime. About the only known commodity the Raiders have to build upon in the secondary is Tyvon Branch who is said to be in contract talks with the team.
This is exactly why Oakland desperately needs second year corner DeMarcus Van Dyke to emerge this season.
If the Raiders can’t develop DVD or Chimdi Chekwa into legit NFL corners then they’re going to be back to square one. This team is still another year away from being able to truly cleanse the cap. They’re entering the 2012 draft with just five picks none of which is before #95 overall. So help is on the way but it’s in the distance.
Simply put there just isn’t much to work with both now and in the coming year. That’s why getting Van Dyke into a position where he can compete for a starting gig or be a solid nickel corner at worst is very necessary.
During his rookie year there were moments when DVD showed the skill that brought him to the Bay in the first place. Yes, that blazing speed is what caught the eye of Al Davis but his fluid cover skills are also attention grabbers.
Where he’ll need to improve to become an every down corner is in consistency, playing the ball and run support. On one snap Van Dyke would blanket his receiver giving him not an inch to breathe. The next he’s caught out of position with his afterburners the only hope to recover.
Like a lot of young and talented DBs, DVD entered the NFL as cover corner. He seems to stick to his man but rarely gets his head around to find the ball. Unlike the NCAA, pro QBs aren’t throwing to open receivers too often. This mean being in position is only half the battle. Reading the receiver’s eyes and studying body language is what helps clue corners into finding a pass before it finds the receiver’s hands.
Finally he’s got to be a more disciplined tackler. That is not something a lot of NFL corners do all that well but Van Dyke was mostly dismal. His slim frame means he won’t be playing a physical brand of football but is it asking too much to get in the way of a running back from time to time?
It might not seem like it but there is an awful lot riding on DVD’s second season. If he fails to take a step forward then the Raiders will be forced to start over with new young talent and more aging veterans at a discount. He doesn’t need to become Nnamdi overnight but being trusted in multiple game scenarios would be a big step forward for Van Dyke.