Possible DC Candidates With NFL Experience for the Oakland Raiders

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Jun 2, 2014; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive backs coach Joe Woods at organized team activities at the Raiders Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3. Joe Woods

Joe Woods would be a shock, obviously. Woods, who was the senior DB’s coach of the Raiders last year, is seemingly out of a job after Marcus Robertson was promoted into his job earlier in the week. While praise for Woods has not been as strong as it has been for Robertson, Charles Woodson has spoke highly of Woods as well.

Woods, who is 44, started his coaching career in 1992 in the college ranks, and spent twelve years as a college assistant, eight of them working with defensive backs at smaller schools. He made the jump to the pros in 2004, joining Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay and working alongside Raheem Morris, Joe Barry and Mike Tomlin on Monte Kiffin’s defensive staff. Woods, Tomlin and Morris all worked together as DB’s coaches, and of course worked with Ronde Barber, who had an All-Pro year in 2004.

The 2004 Buccaneers were the best pass defense in the NFL that year. In 2005 the Bucs slipped to the sixth-best pass defense in the NFL, but the best total defense in the league and Ronde Barber was an All-Pro yet again, registering five picks that year.

In 2006, Woods followed Mike Tomlin to Minnesota to be the DB’s coach of the Vikings under new head coach Brad Childress. The Vikings pass defense did not fare well in 2006, despite four interceptions apiece from Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper, as the team finished 31st in passing yards allowed.

But the unit did tighten up near the end zone, allowing just 15 TD passes all year, good enough for 4th in the league. Woods would stay in Minnesota after Tomlin left for Pittsburgh, working under Leslie Frazier, then later Fred Pagac and Alan Williams. Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper both enjoyed Pro Bowl seasons while working with Woods, but as Sharper moved on and Winfield got older, the talent level in the Vikings secondary slipped. In 2013, the Vikings gave up the most passing touchdowns in the league, and when Leslie Frazier was fired, Joe Woods went with him.

In 2014 Woods was hired to be the Raiders’ secondary coach, hoping the coach could help fix a secondary unit that was part of the league’s 30th-ranked passing defense the year prior. Woods faced an uphill battle for much of the year, as injuries to key players like Tyvon Branch, DJ Hayden, Carlos Rogers and Usama Young gutted the unit and left him working with 2013’s worst-ranked safety in Brandian Ross and a 7th-round pick in TJ Carrie to fill holes created by injury.

Woods did a very admirable job with his patchwork secondary: Carrie saw significant time as a slot corner and played well above his projected ceiling, while Brandian Ross was one of the most improved players in the entire league, starting ten games and showing very well as a cover safety. He also helped 38-year old Charles Woodson play with an energy and durability that belies his age, while helping DJ Hayden get onto the field and contributing quickly after missing most of training camp with a foot injury.

Depsite all the injuries, the Raiders pass defense finished a respectable 16th in the league, and good run support play from Woods’ DB’s also helped the Raiders allow four yards per carry over the course of the year, good enough for 8th best in the NFL. Raider DB’s came on strong late in the year to allow the Raiders to pick up three late-season wins.

Larry Asante picked up six tackles in run support to help the Raiders hold Jamaal Charles to 80 yards on 19 carries in the win against the Chiefs. Brandian Ross and Charles Woodson each grabbed a pick from Colin Kaepernick to help the Raiders beat the 49ers, then did the same to Kyle Orton in the Raiders third victory over the Bills.

Woods has received, deservingly, a lot of credit for the way the Raider secondary improved late in the season, and the way he was able to coach up young players like DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, Keith McGill, Neiko Thorpe, Brandian Ross and Larry Asante.

Woods doesn’t have much of a connection to Del Rio or Del Rio’s staff, but is a respected figure in the Raiders locker room, especially among the defensive backs. Woods also cut his teeth with a few of the most respected defensive coaches in the game, like Monte Kiffin and Mike Tomlin.Woods has interviewed for defensive coordinator jobs in the past, but was considered too young and inexperienced.

Now, with eleven seasons of NFL coaching experience behind him and the opportunity to work for a very respected defensive head coach, now could be a good opportunity for Woods. Del Rio would likely be more involved in the defense, at least initially, and could put his stamp on the style and philosophy of the first-time coordinator.

Next: Candidate #4: Bob Sanders