Never mind that there are relatively few who can pronounce Nnamdi Asomugha’s name properly. The Oakland Raiders’ veteran cornerback made a name for himself a long time ago.
Now in his eighth year in the NFL, he is widely regarded as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, which is why the Tennessee Titans see little reason to give him many opportunities to add to his reputation in Sunday’s season-opener at LP Field.
“He’s a terrific player – long arms, a very speedy guy, a very smart guy,” Titans’ quarterback Vince Young said. “We have some things in play to take advantage of him a little bit, but most of the time we’re going to show him a lot of respect.”
If history is any Young has faced the Raiders only once in his career, and he got through that contest without throwing an interception. Of course, he only put the ball in the air 14 times that day (tied for his second-fewest attempts in a start) and completed just six as the Titans ran their way to a 25-20 victory in 2007.
Tennessee’s leading receiver that day was Justin Gage, with two receptions for 19 yards.
“I’m familiar with (Asomugha),” Gage said. “He’s a guy … we came out in the same class. It’s exciting to be on the field with him again.
“Being a taller (cornerback), a longer (cornerback) but being able to move like one of the smaller DBs, he has the arm range, the ability to run and loose hips so he can make plays. He’s pretty much one of the top two or three corners in the league.”
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Asomugha has the size to match up with most of the taller receivers in the league. He also is one of the speediest members of a defense loaded with fast players and athletic enough to perform all the tasks necessary to stand out at his position.
A first-round pick in 2003, he has intercepted 11 passes in his career and was invited to play in the last two Pro Bowls. Eight of those interceptions came in 2006, the year before the Titans last faced the Raiders. Since, he has intercepted just one pass each of the last three seasons as most teams routinely have tried to stay away from him, much as the Titans did.
“We certainly try to match him up when necessary and it does add to your football team,” Oakland coach Tom Cable said. “Where I think it really benefits us is I think it helps the other three guys in the secondary.
“…You tend to be able to play some different coverages and try to keep that quarterback on the other side guessing.”
Expect Young, when in doubt, to simply go to the other side.