ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is used to going long stretches of games without seeing any action. Denver won’t give him that luxury.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said Wednesday he’ll instruct quarterback Kyle Orton to be aware of where Asomugha is on the field but has no plans to completely avoid the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
“He’s one of the top corners in the league ... and the fact that we have to play him twice a year is no fun,” McDaniels said. “But we’re going to try to run our offense. When you start getting into a game plan and saying, ‘Well, we can’t do this and we can’t do that,’ you can start to outthink yourself.”
If the Broncos follow through on their plans to go at Asomugha, they’ll be one of the few teams willing to take that chance.
Asomugha didn’t allow a single completion in Oakland’s first two games and has been getting only a handful of looks his direction in the four games since.
When the Raiders travel to Colorado for Sunday’s game at Invesco Field, they’ll do it with a group of receivers without an established No. 1 among the bunch. Brandon Marshall is in Miami, leaving Orton with Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd to choose from.
Asomugha, who has been freed up to shadow the opposing team’s best receiver, probably won’t do much shadowing against the Broncos. He’ll stay almost exclusively on the left side, leaving cornerback Stanford Routt on the right.
Just how much Denver will test him remains in question. Historically the Broncos offense has centered on the running game. Under McDaniels, they’ve turned into a pass-first unit.
“Now there is no focus,” Asomugha said. “They have so many weapons and Kyle is throwing the ball to everybody. They come out with three receivers pretty much every play because they want to throw. It’s different than the Broncos that we’ve faced in the past. We’ll have to adjust a little bit.”
Except for the Arizona Cardinals and Houston Texans, who attempted five passes in his direction, Asomugha rarely sees more than two throws coming his way. San Francisco only tested him three times last week, the same number of passes San Diego tried against Asomugha the previous game.
In 2009, opponents completed only 21 attempts against Asomugha. In ‘08, he allowed 17 in 15 games.
“We’ll see,” Orton said. “Nnamdi’s, obviously, a really, really good player. We never just really go away from a guy. I just try to go through my reads and whoever’s open, I’ll throw the ball to him.”
The debate over who is the NFL’s best cornerback, Asomugha or Darrelle Revis, often gets skewed because Asomugha’s interception numbers don’t compare to Revis’ numbers, primarily due to the lack of opportunities.
Make no mistake, however, the Broncos won’t test Asomugha blindly.
“We feel like if we go through our reads and our progressions and we run good routes, we’ll have a chance to throw the ball well,” McDaniels said. “That being said, we’re going to be real smart about what we do in terms of challenging 21 too many times because he’s proven over the course of many, many years that that’s not a very good formula.