Fourth-year safety Michael Huff was in the starting lineup for the third time this season Sunday. But his start against the New York Jets carried some added significance, because it came on merit and not because of an injury to Hiram Eugene.
Huff lost his starting spot to Eugene five games into last season but refused to let the demotion affect his approach each day. That caught the eye of coach Tom Cable, the man who benched Huff.
Huff said he is excited to be back in the mix as more than an extra defensive back who plays only in certain passing situations. Just the same, he isn't taking anything for granted.
"I've been through so much that I know that at any given time it can be taken right back, so I just take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, and show, day in and day out, that I should be a starter," Huff said.
The Raiders selected Huff at No. 7 in the 2006 NFL draft and anointed him the starting strong safety. He struggled making open-field tackles on a consistent basis and finally lost his spot one game into Cable's coaching tenure.
"When I first got here, I was kind of thrown into the fire, knew I kind of had to learn on the run," Huff said. "So, last year, when I was at the very bottom, it kind of made me appreciate where I'm at now more. I know I had had to work for it and actually earn the start this time."
Cable said he has seen tremendous growth by Huff within the past year. Cable recalled that when he first joined the Raiders in 2007, he saw Huff as "a good athlete, can run, can cover and all that, but he really just didn't have that real get-after-it in terms of a tackler."
Said Cable: "When he got sat down last year and went to being a predominant special teams player, he really developed himself as a tackler. It has showed since that point, and he's been very, very good for us this year."
"They have every right to be mad," Miller said. "I would be, too. We've had quite a few blowout losses and (the Jets game, a 38-0 loss) was at home. I'm just as mad, and maybe a lot more, than some fans of how we're playing as a team, how we're not being competitive at times.
"We're just letting teams put way too many points on us, and as an offense we're not scoring any points. I feel a lot of their pain, and we just have to do what we can to go out there and win games and fix what's wrong here."
Part of that owes to how often the Raiders defense has been on the field, more than any other team. However, his grasp of the defense also has played a huge part in his success, Cable said.
"For the most part, he's been very consistent and is playing extremely well," Cable said. "He and Huff both have been very good in their time in there. Tyvon's played all year, been good at coverage, good at tackling, done a very, very good job."