Oakland Raiders Cornerback Development Key Area for Jack Del Rio


Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) interferes on a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) in the third quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

During 2015 NFL Free Agency the one position of need the Oakland Raiders surprisingly did not address by bringing in a starting talent was at cornerback where general manager Reggie McKenzie opted to pass on what was an admittedly weak group save for a few players who went to contending teams for big money.

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After the top tier of coverage guys left the open market McKenzie refused to do what he had done in recent offseasons by bringing in veteran stopgaps on one year contracts, instead putting some big time faith in the players he has drafted to be able to answer the bell once the 2015 season begins. Going into draft season with 2013 first round pick DJ Hayden and late round 2014 picks in TJ Carrie and Keith McGill as projected starters at the position.

All three players have upside as young talents, athletic prospects who can make big plays, but all three have also had injury concerns since making the jump to the NFL and are typically inconsistent as new players to the league still waiting to hit their stride. Because of that new head coach Jack Del Rio has identified the cornerback position as a key area for the coaching staff to ensure that their crop of young talents are maximized by good coaching.

Speaking at the owners meetings last week, Del Rio told Scott Bair of CSN Bay Area that he feels the cornerback position on the Raiders is filled with young talent, but at the same time the talent the team has needs to be developed further if it is going to become a position of strength rather than weakness in 2015.

“As a staff coming in and evaluating, we felt like that was one of the more talented positions that needed to develop,” Del Rio said last week. “Certainly staying healthy will be important for DJ. Carrie played well in his role. We feel like that group has a chance to develop beyond where they are.

“There are pretty solid young guys right there that we look forward to working with and helping them play at a higher level.”

Luckily for the Raiders, the coaching staff at defensive back this upcoming season has two former players who played the game at a high level in place to help aid the improvement of a trio of cornerbacks who have boatloads of potential. Marcus Roberson, a former All-Pro in the NFL, working as the DB coach with the Hall of Fame Rod Woodson as his assistant to have the young players in Oakland put in good hands at the developmental level in two coaches who know exactly what it takes to make it as a high level coverage talent.

If Robertson and Rod Woodson can show the trio of Hayden, Carrie and McGill the ropes the Raiders cornerback position gamble to hand playing time over to recent draft picks may pay off as the increased roles will give the ultimatum of a sink or swim situation in 2015. Drafting all three players to become the future at corner in Oakland, the time is now for the youngsters to show that they are cornerstones of the defense for years to come. Something Del Rio hopes he can make happen with good coaching and development of an important group of players for the franchise. If the coaching staff succeeds McKenzie and company will look incredibly shrewd for placing their faith in the future rather than throwing money at veteran talent during free agency.