Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos
Monday, September 12
CBS 5 – 7:00pm
ALAMEDA (CBS/AP) — Stanford Routt had quite the target on his back last season as opposing quarterbacks repeatedly threw in his direction in order to avoid All Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on the other side of the field.
With a hefty new contract in the offseason and Asomugha gone in free agency, Routt will have a different type of focus on him starting with the season opener Monday night in Denver.
Routt might get fewer balls thrown his way with Asomugha in Philadelphia but he will be under much more scrutiny to justify the millions of dollars he got and the confidence the Oakland Raiders showed in him this offseason.
“I don’t really think about it like that,” Routt said. “I know you as the media, you all are going to go ahead and put a media target on my back, but as far as like anything else, it’s football. You guard the guy that you’re lined up against. It is what it is.”
The Raiders showed their confidence in Routt before free agency even began, giving him a three-year, $31.5 million deal with $20 million guaranteed in February. The two sides tweaked the deal in training camp for salary cap considerations.
Routt was one of the most frequently targeted cornerbacks in the league last season as he faced 99 pass attempts. Only 13 players were targeted by opposing quarterbacks more often, but few were more successful.
According to game-charting data by STATS LLC, Routt allowed just 39.4 percent of those passes to be completed. That was the lowest in the league of any player targeted at least 60 times and was comparable to the numbers put up by his more heralded teammate, Asomugha (39.4 percent), and New York Jets star Darrelle Revis (33.9 percent).
Routt wasn’t nearly as successful in his first five seasons, allowing 62.7 percent of passes thrown in his direction to be completed. He will need to duplicate last year’s performance to make up for Asomugha, who left for Philadelphia as a free agent earlier this summer.
With the Raiders usually keeping their cornerbacks on one side of the field in man coverage rather than matching up against the opposition’s top receiver, Routt said his role won’t be much different without Asomugha.
“Last year left corner would line up on the left side, right corner would line up on the right side, and it was what it was,” Routt said. “We did very little traveling, you know, last year or matching up. I think it was about two games. So I think that’s the biggest misconception that people are misunderstanding. It’s not really much different.”
One thing that is different is Routt’s confidence and demeanor. He was a second-round pick by the Raiders in 2005 and earned a starting role by his third season. He then slipped behind Chris Johnson on Oakland’s depth chart and started just five games in 2008-09.
He won back the starting job last year and produced his best year yet in six years as a pro. He intercepted two passes, had a career-high 13 passes defensed, and excelled in man coverage.
The improved play, the new contract and Asomugha’s departure have helped turned Routt into a leader on Oakland’s defense.
“He knows he’s the guy, and this defense, the Raiders always have a No. 1 corner, for the past seven years, he’s kind of been a guy in the shadows,” safety Michael Huff said. “But I think now he knows it’s his turn and he’s that guy.”
The task this season is to add some play-making to his coverage skills, which could be hard if teams choose to shy away from his side of the field and target Johnson instead.
New defensive assistant Rod Woodson, a Hall of Fame cornerback in his playing days, has stressed to the defensive backs all training camp to be more aggressive about trying to make plays.
The Raiders have had the fewest interceptions in the league the past eight seasons, with Routt managing to get only six in his six seasons.
“He has natural gifts. Every player that gets drafted in the NFL has those gifts. He has to cultivate those gifts,” Woodson said. “It’s his turn to learn how to play the game and learn to trust himself. The elite players learn to trust themselves on the field. Once he does that and he pulls the trigger when he has opportunities to pull the trigger, his game is going to elevate, his interceptions are going to go up and that’s when you’re going to start hearing his name more so than you have in the past.”
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