Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders free safety Charles Woodson (24) intercepts a pass intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin (11) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
1. 2015: Woodson’s Stellar Final Season
Woodson returned to the Raiders in 2013 to finish out his career, and during his first two years back the team went an abysmal 7-25, lost in a wilderness of dead money and underachieving players and coaches. But 2015 has been different. While the team will almost certainly not make the playoffs and will have to run the table just to get to .500, the Raiders have been competitive in this, Charles Woodson’s final year.
And one of the big reasons the Raiders have been competitive and have nearly matched their win total from the previous two years already, is the play of Charles Woodson. Despite suffering a severe shoulder injury early in the year that has plagued him the entire season, Woodson has not missed a start and hardly even missed a snap at safety for the Raiders. Woodson at one point midway through the year led the NFL in interceptions with five, and currently leads the league in fumble recoveries with four.
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Woodson’s first pick of the year helped the Raiders clinch their first road win since 2012 when he snagged a Josh McCown pass at the 12 yard line with 43 seconds to go against the Browns in Cleveland. He also managed to finally pick off Peyton Manning – the quarterback who was taken three picks ahead of him in the 1998 draft, and whom he had beaten out for the Heisman Trophy in 1997 – and got him twice in the same game. A key third quarter fumble recovery (and then a second recovery of his own fumble on the same play) helped the Raiders to a 15-12 win against the Broncos less than two weeks ago. He’s also managed 65 tackles on the year and has been a big part of the Raiders’ outstanding run defense this season.
Woodson’s inspired play has been an example for a crop of young players who will be leading the Raiders in the years to come, players like Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, who have been very vocal in their praise for the player they refer to as the GOAT: Greatest Of All Time. Woodson’s legacy for the Raiders may be less about the things he did in the years he played in Silver & Black, and more about the way he affected the careers of the players who will carry on in the years to come.