The Oakland Raiders will receive a huge boost at safety with the return of Tyvon Branch. Branch missed almost the entire season in 2013 with a broken leg. He returns in 2014 to pair with Charles Woodson. Oakland also added seventh-round draft pick Jonathan Dowling to compete with Brandian Ross and Usama Young for back-up spots.
The Raiders are in good shape at safety. Although Woodson is entering his 17th season, he remains a productive player. Branch was the best player on the defense before all of the additions this offseason and he will look to take back his place among the best in 2014. Woodson and Branch will be the starters at safety, which never materialized last season with the Branch injury. The safety position is in good hands and should be a strength of the secondary.
The training camp competition heats up for the back-up spots behind Branch and Woodson. Three players will be battling for two roster spots. Brandian Ross filled in for Branch last season, but struggled mightily. The coaching staff still started him 13 games, where he recorded 75 tackles, two sacks and three pass defenses. He has serious improvement needed in order to be a part of the Oakland roster in 2014.
Usama Young was another player the Raiders rotated in at safety after the Branch injury. Young finished with 26 tackles, one interception, 2.5 sacks, and three pass defenses. He stood out more than Ross because of his ability to make big plays. He still needs to sure up his coverage, but offers interesting skills and the ability to move around the defense.
Rookie Jonathan Dowling will be the x-factor in this competition. If he can show the playmaking ability he possessed in college, he can beat out both Young and Ross. Dowling started his college career and Florida, but ended up at Western Kentucky because of off the field issues. He is a nice athlete with good size at 6-3, 195 pounds. Dowling can flat out make plays. In two college seasons, he amassed nine interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and 20 pass defenses. If he can show those skills in training camp and begin his development, he is an interesting prospect in 2014 and well beyond.
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Tags: Charles Woodson, Football, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders