Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch (33) tackles New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) during the second quarter of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
This list I compiled is not in any particular order:
Charles Woodson (FS #24)- Need I say anymore? Of course, why not: C-Wood is still one of the best defensive players on the field in any NFL organization. It just so happens that Woodson chose to come back to the Oakland Raiders and help the team get back to its winning ways of old. He is strong, fast, smart, cunning, and he loves to take away the ball from WR’s and especially QB’s. At his age, FS is the best place for him to be.
Usama Young (FS #26)- Young is a special player in my book. He came to us from the New Orleans Saints (where D.A. was his DB Coach) and Cleveland Browns. Young is being groomed by Charles Woodson everyday, and he is Woodson’s backup in the event of an injury. Plus, I love the way he lays his body on the line. He’s not afraid to mix it up in the middle, and he’ll play Special Teams if necessary. All around, he’s a very good teammate, and I hope he finishes his career out in Oakland.
Tyvon Branch (SS #33)- The loss of Branch in 2013 seriously damaged the season for the Oakland Raiders. He was that piece to the puzzle that made everything flow and work right. When he went down, it took the wind out of the sails. With him back in the lineup, and healthy, Branch adds that structure and toughness needed in a SS. Plus, he always finds a way to be around the ball to either make the tackle, force the fumble, pick it off, or scoop it up off the ground. The combination of Woodson and Branch is one of the best in the game right now!
Brandian Ross (SS #29)- Say what you will about him, he did an admirable job as Branch’s fill in, recording 75 tackles, 3 passes deflected, and one forced fumble. The fourth year man was originally with the Green Bay Packers practice squad before coming to the Raiders in 2012. He has been very good on Special Teams and as a backup to Branch at SS. Moving forward, Ross will once again prove worthy as Branch’s relief, and he will contribute on kickoff and punt coverage. He’s tough and has youth on his side still.
Jonathan Dowling (S #41)- The Oakland Raiders final pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is big and strong, and he has been impressing coaches in Rookie Camp, OTA’s, Mandatory Mini-Camp, and hopefully he will continue to do so in Training Camp. With the way things have progressed in Seattle with their bigger S’s and CB’s, it has given other teams a blueprint of how to beat QB’s like Peyton Manning. Dowling fits that mold (6′ 3″ and 190 pounds). Look for him to be the future of the Raiders defense after Woodson retires. He may indeed supplant Ross or Young.
Keith McGill (CB #39)- Picked in the 4th Round of the 2014 NFL Draft, McGill is that prototypical Richard Sherman body type of CB. Standing at 6′ 3″ and 211 pounds, one could only hope that he can become as good as Sherman. He is another one of the rookie’s who have been impressive early on in team activities this off-season. The potential is there, especially as versatile as he is. McGill played both FS and CB in college, and he could do the same with the Oakland Raiders. It’ll just come down to how well he can cover NFL calibre WR’s.
Taiwan Jones (CB #22)- Jones is a journeyman type of player, even though he has been with the same team since 2011. Originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders as a running back, it was clear early on that he wasn’t going to make the team at that position. Instead, Jones has made the Raiders team each season for his outstanding Special Teams play at the gunner position. Due to his speed and agility, Jones was asked to move from RB to CB, a position he played in High School and partially in College, and he did so willingly. He adds depth to the CB position, and he will primarily be used on Special Teams.