Prince Amukamara Was a Steal for Las Vegas Raiders

Tom LaMarre

The Las Vegas Raiders have added so many talented and intriguing players this year that Raider Nation simply can’t wait to see how they are utilized by Coach Jon Gruden.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara has only one thing in mind and believes Gruden, General Manager Mike Mayock, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther are thinking exactly the same way.

“My No. 1 job is to definitely be a starter on this team,” said Amukamara, who has played nine seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Chicago Bears. “No, if, ands, or buts about it, that’s my No. 1 goal. With that, I for sure plan on. … I plan on leading organically and stuff like that.

“Everything was very positive; (the decision to sign) was more based on a certain set of skills that I have and how I can help with what’s going on. (Mayock, Gruden, and Guenther) thought I could be a very essential part, and I think also what’s always been praised about me—not to toot my own horn—but me being a veteran and a true pro. Just the way I’m able to lead.”

The 31-year-old Amukamara figures to be a mentor for young cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson, who showed promise last season, and rookie draftees Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson.

But the guy can play, too.

The Raiders have had some great shutdown cornerbacks, including Willie Brown, Mike Haynes, Lester Hayes, Skip Thomas, and Charles Woodson, plus Kent McCloughan, who was considered close to Brown inability before an injury ended his career in 1970.

Amakamura might not rank with those guys, but he is in the same mold and recently was named the fifth-best cover cornerback in the current NFL by Pro Football Focus.

According to PFF: “Amukamara isn’t flashy and he’s not going to shut down one half of the field, but he’s a solid veteran with a track record of consistent play. With the uncertainty and youth that the Raiders have at the cornerback position, they needed someone like him. Amukamara just qualified for this list with 166 man-coverage snaps in 2019, but he wasn’t tested often in man and limited production well enough when he was to earn a top-five spot on this list. I would expect him to start outside in Paul Guenther’s defense, even with young guys like Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette in the fold.

“ … Look for Amukamara to play a ton of snaps early in the season as they ease the likes of Damon Arnette, Amik Robertson, and Isaiah Johnson onto the field.”

Pro Football Focus has had its eyes on Amukamara since he signed a one-year contract with the Raiders in May.

PFF listed his deal with the Raiders as one of the most underrated signings during NFL free agency.

Another story on PFF read: “The signing of Amukamara by Las Vegas is a good one that almost no one is talking about. Amukamara has been under-appreciated for much of his career, a fact exemplified by the Bears making him a cap casualty this offseason despite his overall grade of 81.0 for the team just two seasons ago. … (His) stability and veteran presence is something the Raiders should be able to make real use of in 2020.”

The 6-foot, 205-pound Amukamara was the 11th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New York Giants out of Nebraska, where he was an All-American and Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.

Over the last eight seasons since becoming a starter, he has shown he also is very good against the run, making at least 45 tackles in each of those seasons, including a high of 85 in 2013.

Amukumara has only 10 interceptions in his career, but that often is the case with shutdown corners, as quarterbacks often throw away from them, as was often to the case with Willie Brown.

However, like Brown, Amukamara knows what to do when he gets his chance, as he picked off a pass from Russell Wilson and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown to help the Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, 24-17, in a Monday Night Football game in 2018.

Amukamara’s long and winding road to Las Vegas and the Raiders probably began when Mayock, then an analyst for NFLdraftscout.com, had him rated as the second-best cornerback in 2011, and Gruden, who was a TV analyst at the time and always has been a draft guru, also had him highly rated.

“We’re excited about Prince Amukamara,” Guden said when the Raiders signed him.

Raider Nation should be, too.

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