Last season the Oakland Raiders saw one of their great strengths become a weakness. When Nnamdi Asomugha left the Bay he took the Silver and Black’s swagger in the secondary with him.
Once upon a time the Raiders were among the best pass defenses in the NFL. Last year, with Stanford Routt making the move to replace Nnamdi, the secondary became Swiss cheese on Sundays.
To be sure the efforts made to replace Asomugha were laughable. Not that you could ever fill a void left by a player as talented as Aso. But drafting two rookies and then signing a past-his-prime vet in Lito Sheppard was a sad attempt to replenish the secondary.
That’s why all eyes have been on the cornerbacks in camp thus far. One of the rookies drafted to help replace Asomugha is really coming into his own. DeMarcus Van Dyke has earned high praise for the big step forward he’s taken.
However one of the veterans brought in to help fill the gap between the old guard and the new one isn’t finding life in Silver and Black to be all that comfortable.
According to reports Shawntae Spencer hasn’t put forth his best effort in camp. Vic Tafur Tweeted
today that wide receivers are “doing whatever they want” against Spencer’s coverage.
That is a real concern early on.
While DVD is looking ripe to step into an expanded role he still doesn’t have the experience to fall back on when the dog days of the regular season start to wear on him. Guys like Spencer were expected to come in ready to roll from day one. Nobody expected a Pro Bowl but getting a reliable starter was the bare minimum.
Adding to the angst of the Oakland corners is the continued absence of Ron Bartell who is still nursing a hamstring issue. Both Bartell and Spencer arrived as veterans with something to prove. Neither was a factor for their previous teams last season and neither generated much interest in free agency.
Anytime a player inks a one-year deal it’s understood that everyday is an audition. If things are this bad this early in camp for Spencer there could be some serious discussion of moving forward without him on the 53-man, opting instead to let the youth movement take over earlier than anticipated.
But all of this is coming far too early. Let’s see how things go during an actual game before we make too many assumptions. Spencer’s true value might not be revealed until he’s playing under the lights. At least that’s what Dennis Allen has got to be hoping for.