Shutdown Corner - NFL

 Raiders’ Routt has no fear of constant man coverage

Recently, we revealed the folly of underestimating Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), still one of the best in the league. But if the Raiders are more comfortable letting Asomugha go in free agency (whenever that begins), it's because Stanford Routt(notes), the second-round pick out of Houston in 2005, finally grew into his position as a starting cornerback and put up some of the best numbers in the league.

According to STATS, Inc., Routt (who was one of the league's most-targeted cornerbacks, as enemy quarterbacks were desperate to throw away from Asomugha) put up some of the NFL's best numbers in 2010: a 42 percent catch rate allowed, which was better than any qualifying cornerback in the league not named Darrelle Revis(notes). Routt also placed among the league leaders in yards per attempt and completion percentage allowed. He gave up just four touchdown passes in 2010, which amounted to just under 5 percent of all passes thrown his way.

Routt recently went on SIRIUS NFL Radio to talk about the man-heavy scheme the Raiders are well-known for playing. Oakland ran a lot of single-high safety looks in 2010, with Michael Huff(notes) up top and Routt and Asomugha as the cornerback combo for the most part. With so much man coverage, even if a nickel back is involved, those "islands" you keep hearing about can be a problem if you're not used to it and on top of your game.

"Basically, you just hit it on the head. We basically play man every damn down," Routt told hosts Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan. "If we play 60 snaps on defense, at least 56 of those are going to be man coverage. Everyone in the league knows what our game plan is," he said. "It's hard as hell to do that."

But in another recent interview, Routt clarified his comments. "We're a solid team and we live by 'no excuses'. No matter the situation, we always find a way to make it happen," he told Steve Wyremski of Pro Football Focus. "The scheme isn't going to change and most of the time the play calling isn't going to change, so it's all on you. There's no long distance on the island. You can't call for help."

And that makes sense if further comments are taken in context — in that SIRIUS interview, Routt (who's apparently been slammed a bit for his take on Oakland's scheme) talks about the advantages and what he likes about it. "For the most part, they want us to be in the receiver's face and disrupt them off the ball," Routt said. "It's just the way we do things. We believe in cutting down all the air. From playing tight coverage and seeing up close, the quarterback is going to have to be pinpoint accurate."

We've had Routt on Shutdown Corner before in podcast form, and we hope to have him on in the near future to talk about these comments and a host of other things.

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