Position outlook: Safety

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, we look at safeties:

Looking back: The Oakland Raiders released Rod Woodson after failing a physical, thus ending his illustrious 17-year career. That move cleared the way for Ray Buchanan to be the starting free safety.

The Raiders were hoping that Buchanan would have similar success as Woodson in terms of going from cornerback to free safety. Buchanan's experience and leadership are assets but his play was not.

Cornerback Charles Woodson played safety in some situations last year as well. Some people believe that move might be warranted, which cannot be said about his $10 million dollar price tag.

Derrick Gibson, who has been a colossal bust since being drafted as a first round pick in 2001, would have started at strong safety but was put on injured reserve after sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in the final exhibition game. The Raiders then acquired Marques Anderson in a trade from the Green Bay Packers.

Third-round draft pick Stuart Schweigert received valuable experience as a rookie. He had some good moments and some not-so-good ones. Oakland also ended up signing David Terrell and Jarrod Cooper as backups who primarily played special teams. Cooper also played, however, in dime situations.

Looking ahead: It's no secret that the key to any success in the secondary is having a good pass rush, which the Raiders clearly lack. The front seven is a higher priority to upgrade but the secondary leaves something to be desired as well.

Despite his ups-and-downs as a rookie, Schweigert appears ready to be a starter but he needs to be a more consistent tackler. Buchanan is a good leader but has not shown that the move to free safety is a long term answer.

Anderson can deliver strong hits but his coverage skills leave plenty to be desired. Anderson, who will enter his fifth season, is young and the fact that the Raiders gave up two draft picks to get him might mean they will give him another shot.

When healthy, the Raiders are convinced that Gibson is the starter. Gibson, however, has lived down to his billing. He came into the league with a reputation for being a hitter but his missed tackles and blown coverage assignments have far outnumbered his bone-jarring hits.

Cooper and Terrell might warrant keeping because of their special teams contributions, plus they will come cost-effectively. Cooper, however, is more valuable because he has contributed more on defense.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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