Oakland Raiders Player Profile: CB Ron Bartell
Justin Smith – Jun 11, 2012
The Oakland Raiders went into last season without a familiar face in Nnamdi Asomugha, the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback, whose man to man defense was a staple of the Silver & Black defensive attack.
They relied instead on newly minted number one corner Stanford Routt and the injury riddled Chris Johnson, along with draftees Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
The experiment did not go well.
The Raiders ended last season ranked 27th overall in pass defense, and the problems were largely a result of the back end coverage. Although sack numbers were slightly down, the rush wasn't the problem. The lack of coverage was. Touchdown passes abounded.
It would seem then that the Raiders would concentrate efforts on improving that back end coverage and get some high quality talent at the corner position while Van Dyke and Chekwa, who showed promise last year but aren't quite ready for prime time yet, get their sea legs.
Some have said the signing of two veterans coming off injuries in Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer did nothing more than put a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Not exactly the elite level corners that some expected the Raiders would grab and most agreed they needed.
But Bartell is a quality talent; people have just forgotten.
Drafted by the Rams in the second round in 2005, despite playing at tiny Howard University, he showed strength in the running game as well as speed and ball instincts in the passing game. His size combined with his ability to make plays in the running game, while still covering receivers down the field got him noticed even from the small college stage.
Although he is a very big corner at 6'1 and weighs 210 pounds, he ran a very fast 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine, and that size-speed combination makes him right at home with Raider tradition.
After seeing some spot duty in his first two seasons, Bartell had an impressive 2007 campaign, recording 67 tackles (63 solo) and a sack and an interception and nine passes defensed.
He followed that up in spectacular fashion as, despite being third on the depth chart, the Rams couldn't keep him off the field as he recorded 57 tackles and was amongst the league leaders in passes defensed with 20 on the season.
He parlayed that into a new four-year contract worth roughly $7 million a year and was penciled in as the Rams starter and being discussed as an up and coming star at the position for years to come.
Although he didn't approach the same passes defensed figure of the 2008 season, Bartell continued to show impressive run stopping and play-making ability, forcing four fumbles combined in 2009 and 2010 seasons and racking up 65+ tackles in each.
Although he has shown the ability to break up passes, making plays on the ball isn't his strong suit, as he has only eight career interceptions, and none since 2008. In an interesting twist, his first career interception came against the Oakland Raiders on December 17, 2006 against good ol' Andrew Walter, who was slingin' it with his trademark accuracy,(or lack thereof).
After the 2010 season, Bartell was set to help the Rams continue their return back to respectability when he injured his neck in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was so insignificant at the time, Bartell has said, that he wanted to go back into the game. But fate intervened and the game became a blowout.
It turned out that Bartell had a pair of fractures; he had literally broken his neck. Season over, and possibly, career.
After the 2011 season he was released by the Rams, but he never stopped fighting to get back to the level he was attaining before his injury. His surgery was a complete success, and there is no lingering damage or danger as a result of the injury. He has been medically cleared and declared himself fully healthy. In fact, has also said the rest during his rehab has him feeling fresher in body and spirit than he has in many an offseason.
With a lack of experience at defensive back and a ton of turnover in the last two seasons, the Raiders need Bartell and Spencer to acclimate quickly; all reports from camp state that in that department, Bartell is ahead of schedule.
This is good news for the Raiders, who need someone who can be scheme-versatile in the new Silver & Black world and who brings proven experience and talent to the corner position.
Having shown characteristics of talent, ability, versatility, heart, and passion throughout his career the Raiders have the type of player they want for the new era. A big, strong, fast, talented player who has proven his worth on the field and his mettle by battling back from a horrific injury.
A corner who likes to hit running backs, who doesn't shy away from contact and with excellent technique in tackling is something the Raiders have been sorely lacking in the defensive backfield, and it's cost them so many times over the years.
Bartell has shown himself in the past to be that corner, and appears healthy enough and jazzed up to be that corner again. So NFL running backs, take notice: the days of a simple toss sweep getting to the edge and then going forty yards are over.
Ron Bartell is willing to stick his newly healed neck out to make sure of that.
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