Without hyperbole, Raiders DB coach Derrick Ansley is the single most important position coach on the defensive. With all due respect, to the others, Ansley’s job appears far more difficult than any of theirs. In a little more than six months, Ansley needs to construct a competent secondary out of free agents, young players, and fringe depth. Immediately, red flags should arise. However, Ansley appears up to the task.
Before Ansley arrived in Oakland, Hall of Famer Rod Woodson helmed the secondary. In return, the unit produced four interceptions last year. Now, Ansley brings a different mindset to the group. First, Ansley never played a down of NFL football. On the other hand, he picked off nineteen passes at Troy University. Next, Ansley toiled at a Division III school, learning the ins and out of the defense, before working his way up to Alabama.
Unlike Woodson, Ansley’s resume brings a relatable quality. He is only going to Canton to visit. In addition, there is a chance that none of his Raiders will see enshrinement. From that point, Ansley could build a worker mentality amongst his players. If the Raiders do not draft a defensive back in the first two rounds, Ansley will coach one first round safety (Joseph) and corner (Conley).
As Ansley’s charges begin filling out the roster, you can see a start difference in athlete. Gone are Sean Smith and David Amerson, bigger corners that lacked twitchy explosion. With Gareon Conley returning and the newly signed Rashaan Melvin, the Raiders employ versatile corners that can either trail or stay hip-to-hip with receivers. Equally important, the Raiders starters actually have the lateral agility to move with receivers. Melvin and Conley, paired with McDonald and Wright and whatever potential draftee give the Raiders a solid quintet. While the backend of that rotation looks thin, it is very different from disasters of seasons past.
With Marcus Gilchrist joining the fray, the Raiders boast another safety with coverage skills. Yet, the question forming for RaiderNation remains: How will they incorporate three starting caliber safeties. Well, Obi Melifonwu has not played enough to show that he is a starter. As a result, Gilchrist gives Oakland insurance, in case Melifonwu fails to live up to expectations.
During 2018, the Raiders will face teams that line up two dominant receivers at the same time. From Hill and Watkins to Landry and Gordon, Ansley’s secondary will need to step up and avoid debacles like the New England embarrassment in Mexico.
From all indications, Derrick Ansley is a rising star in the coaching ranks. Turning a subpar group around with a host of new players could net him a promotion somewhere. In reality, the secondary can only improve at this point.