2017 was not a good year for almost any unit for the Oakland Raiders and this was especially so for the secondary which probably had the worst season of any on the team. While the overall pass defense was fortunate not to finish lower than 26th in terms of yards per game, they finished dead last in terms of interceptions and second-to-last in terms of overall takeaways.
Their season was so bad that their lack of interceptions became a national story as broadcasters, fans, and even the players began to wonder if they would finish the season without an interception. It is worth noting that the Raiders’ first two draft picks, both of whom play in the secondary, became net minuses due to injury but the neither player was going to save the secondary this season.
Sean Smith has become both punchline and pariah amongst Raiders fans after being routinely torched. For much of the 2017 season it was more of the same with fans holding their collective breaths anytime he was asked to cover a “small speedy” receiver. In response, the now deposed coaching staff attempted to have him defend Tight Ends as a hybrid Linebacker/Defensive Back, the project was a disaster and Smith dropped as low as the fourth corner on the team for a team that needed all the help it could get. Sean Smith may have played his last games in the NFL this season.
In 2015, Amerson became a good story for the Raiders as he was plucked off waivers. Instantly, he became the best corner on the team. 2016 saw a return to Earth. 2017 was an absolute crashing through the floor. Amerson lacked positioning, a culprit of poor tackling, and now wears the dreaded label of “concussion prone”. The Raiders can opt out of his contract this year as Amerson tries to return to his 2015 form. If he does return, he will face a pay cut and role reduction.
Though he has made a pair of Pro Bowls in his time with the Raiders, at this point it is clear that his play declined. Nelson always gambled, in terms of his angles. However, closing speed and high-level awareness compensated. In 2017, he was frequently late to plays and guilty of miscommunications on his side of the field. With Jack Del Rio and his contract set to expire, the Raiders should let him walk with his heir apparent already on the team.
Karl Joseph likely had the second best season on in the secondary in 2017. He finished with an overall rating of 80.8 via Pro Football Focus, and a unique stat line of 79 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. No one else in the NFL posted a line like that this season. In truth, he still had his warts with missed tackles, poor angles, and communication errors. However, he also was likely playing out of position. Expect Joseph to take over Reggie Nelson’s role as quarterback of the secondary and deep-half safety.
TJ Carrie likely made himself a good bit of money over the course of this season. He was by far the best cornerback on the roster. Carrie had some issues keeping his footing. Yet, he played some excellent games against players like Keenan Allen. If the Raiders will not pay him some team will as he finished 22nd overall per PFF.
While not the 22nd best corner in the league, he can play in the slot and on the outside. If the Raiders do bring him back, it will be as the second corner behind Gareon Conley