Asomugha: Raiders' single-minded defense lacks enough variety

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha believes the problems with the Oakland Raiders' defense are simple -- as in the defense is too simple.

The Raiders traditionally have been a team that predominantly plays man-to-man defense, with a single high safety, a four-man rush and little blitzing. Everyone knows just what the Raiders like to do defensively, including the opposition, and that's where problems can arise.

"We're a team that chooses to be who we are regardless of who we're playing against and regardless of the matchups or the things that the other team is going to present," Asomugha said Wednesday. "We've got one way of doing it, and that's what we do, and teams can get us into some tough situations."

That's what happened last week when the Raiders allowed 384 yards on just 10 plays in a 24-7 loss at Dallas. Oakland gave up 494 yards overall, the most since allowing 527 in a 40-35 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Dec. 19, 2004.

Big plays have been a recurring problem all season for Oakland (3-8). According to STATS LLC, the Raiders have allowed an NFL-worst 54 plays that have gone for at least 20 yards, with 15 coming on the ground and 39 through the air.

Oakland also has made 79 plays go for negative yardage, one shy of the league-leading Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, making the Raiders' defense an all-or-nothing affair.

"A lot of times, it's the player that's going to be putting himself in the best position to make the play just because how our defense is," Asomugha said. "You have to be better than the guy in front of you. It's not just the corners, it's the D-line, it's the linebackers."

Asomugha is perhaps the most respected player on the Raiders, both for his sterling play on the field and honesty off it. His play has been one of the few bright spots during the roughest stretch in franchise history, and he was rewarded this offseason with a three-year, $45.3 million contract. His stature gives his criticisms added weight.

Asomugha said he gets a little jealous when he talks to former teammate Charles Woodson about all the different defenses that the Green Bay Packers run. Asomugha cited an interview by New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who credited his team's defensive turnaround with taking some of the best parts of what many teams do.


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Asomugha said he lobbies his coaches so much for those type of changes that they laugh at him when he keeps bringing it up. He said simplicity in itself isn't always a problem, citing the success the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had earlier this decade running the Cover 2 on almost every play. But the Raiders apparently don't have the talent to succeed that way.

"Maybe we don't want to be as multiple as other guys, maybe we don't have to be," Asomugha said. "We have to prove that we're good enough to win and play well doing the simple things that we're doing. We're not proving that right now. It's not like we proved it last year or we proved it the year before. This is several years now where we haven't been able to get over the hump of winning more than four or five games a year. Maybe you go back and you think about what we're doing and think about ways to fix it."

The Raiders appear headed for their seventh consecutive losing season. They already are the first team ever to lose at least 11 games in six consecutive seasons and need to go 3-2 over the final month to avoid extending that ignominious record to a seventh season.

A change in coordinator from Rob Ryan to John Marshall this season has done little to change the problems on defense. The system that Oakland runs is still basically the same one that owner Al Davis has always preferred.

"The game changes, the game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that," Asomugha said. "You have to be able to adapt."

Raiders coach Tom Cable said the team has mixed things up a bit more this year, with a few more blitzes and other coverages, but that basically the defense is the same as always. He said the issue has been blown assignments and miscommunications more than anything else.

"You look at those breakdowns, and that's been the issue pretty much all year," Cable said. "I don't know if that's really the scheme. I think that's staying disciplined with what they're doing."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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