Before there were any padlocks plastered on gates leading to NFL facilities nationwide it was a well known fact that this was going to be a much different offseason for the Oakland Raiders. It seemed as if every player of any importance to Oakland’s success was going to be a free agent. In addition there wasn’t much wiggle room near the cap ceiling thanks to an allotment of dead money.
All in all this was going to be an offseason of difficult decisions for Al Davis.
One decision that was a no-brainer was to retain the services of Stanford Routt. This was a given since the only thing more certain than Nnamdi Asomugha’s departure was Tim Tebow’s benching.
While Routt may not be comparable to Nnamdi he has more than proven himself capable playing opposite Asomugha. The same cannot be said for any other cornerback currently on the roster.
You could actually argue that replacing Routt’s role is more difficult than filling Nnamdi’s shoes. Just ask DeAngelo Hall how difficult it is to be on the other side of a shutdown stud like Asomugha. While Routt is no Nnamdi, whoever starts opposite Stanford is sure to be seen as the better bet to throw on.
As it stands Chris Johnson is the candidate most likely to be starting opposite Routt. However that is mainly by default. Johnson tends to play like a faucet in an old apartment building – he runs hot and cold. Since Johnson has the most game experience and has proven himself capable of playing in Oakland’s man scheme he has all the necessary traits to be a full time starter.
But beyond Johnson there is a great void. The Raiders are banking on the youth movement to go from patience to performance. Jeremy Ware and Walter McFadden should have the advantage after one year in the NFL. Problem is neither showed much as a rookie and neither looks likely to push Johnson for the starting gig.
DeMarcus Van Dyke has grabbed the eye of Rod Woodson in camp. However practice is much different than the real deal. If DVD is going to make a giant leap in his first pro season then he’s going to have to show a lot of promise and soon. Chimdi Chekwa is coming off an early injury setback so there’s no telling where he is in the evaluation process.
No matter who emerges from the camp battles as the nickel back or possibly starter the real problems going forward are injuries.
Last season both McFadden and Ware were forced into action thanks to injury. Neither impressed and both got schooled in the NFL’s classroom of hard knocks.
This season will be an even bigger challenge should the lone vets succumb to injury. There is no insurance policy except maybe Michael Huff making the fulltime conversion to corner. Otherwise the Raiders are as thin at corner as a room full of super models on the eve of the pageant.
The Raiders need a veteran corner and they need one yesterday.
There was a brief flirtation with Antonio Cromartie but the cap restraints assured there was no way he’d be in Silver and Black. Re-signing Nnamdi was never on the docket. Otherwise the free agent market is pretty thin.
So that leaves either a trade or an overnight miracle. Again the problem with a trade is the cap issue related to taking on a new contract. The overnight miracle requires one or two of the young DBs to blossom into a legit cover corner.
Both scenarios are very possible. You never know what Al Davis is working on behind those closed doors. Who expected Richard Seymour to be a Raider? And truth be told you never know when you’re going to catch lightning in a bottle. How many people just knew Nnamdi Asomugha, a safety at Cal, was going to be shutdown corner in the NFL?
With Asomugha the Raiders had time. They were rebuilding so it was only natural to let Nnamdi develop.
Time is not an option now.
Right now the Raiders are very much in the AFC West hunt. Those playoff hopes don’t allow for young corners to learn by taking their lumps.
So here we stand. Asomugha is in the past. Routt is the present. And the future is…
We’ll just have to wait and see who emerges as the future of the Oakland Raiders at corner. It’s a proud heritage of Raider DBs after all. Somebody’s got to be the next in line.
Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Antonio Cromartie Chimdi Chekwa Chris Johnson Deangelo Hall DeMarcus Van Dyke Jeremy Ware Michael Huff Nnamdi Asomugha Richard Seymour Rod Woodson Stanford Routt Tim Tebow Walter McFadden