Oakland’s Young Gun Cornerbacks

2 of 3

Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety Brandian Ross (29) reacts after a play in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Brandian Ross

When Brandian Ross became the starter for Oakland in Week 8’s game against Cleveland the expectations couldn’t be lower. He was just a body thrown onto the field to fill an sorely decimated spot. Luckily his first game was against a Brian Hoyer led offense that managed to only get 39 yards rushing on 25 attempts, and only through the ball further than ten yards seven times. In that game the ball was only thrown into Ross’s coverage one time, and he successfully defended the pass.

Ross would go onto to become a fairly solid safety for the team, becoming sixth on the team in tackles (48) and allowing a very impressive average 44.4 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks when throwing into his coverage. Those two stats taken by themselves make Ross look like an amazing option for the Raiders at safety. However, he missed far too many tackles and he was occasionally susceptible to the deep pass, contributing to his overall PFF rating on the season landing at -1.1 as a safety.

Things look a little worse when you look at Ross’ contributions as a corner. In Weeks 10 and 12 Ross played the slot corner role and his PFF grade took a major dive, dropping down to -6.5. To be fair, one of those games was against Peyton Manning. In the second game against the Alex Smith led Chiefs, Ross did noticeably better.

When looking at Ross as a corner for 2015 the waters are murky. He’s clearly shown an ability to improve between years and over the course of the season, but it would be shocking to see him get anywhere past being the 4th or 5th corner on the field (draft dependent) and will likely be a rotational safety.

Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback Keith McGill (39) defends on a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Keith McGill

McGill very closely resembles the type of athlete Al Davis would have loved. He’s tall, has solid speed, great arms & huge hands, and can jump out of the building. In the today’s NFL of copycats anyone admiring the Seattle approach to cornerbacks would love the physical gifts of Keith McGill. However, Keith McGill is still super raw. His fundamentals leave much to be desired and he sometimes plays far smaller than his size might dictate.

The sample size on McGill is extremely small. He only played 147 snaps the entire season, mostly at near the end with both with both veteran cornerbacks injured. When he was in the game however, he let some of that raw talent shine. He finished with a 0.6 PFF rating over the course of 5 games and never allowed more than a 63.2 passer rating when throwing into his coverage. That highest rating was against Denver in week 17 when he was thrown at 9 times and only gave up 3 receptions.

McGill will be the type of cornerback that will benefit immensely from Rod Woodson’s coaching. Being able to really leverage his size into more physical play and stepping up his run support could make him a solid option as a 3rd or even starting corner (as will be discussed when talking about TJ Carrie). The key will be the elusive concept of teaching someone how to break poor habits and play elite football this late in the game. He’s a wild card for sure, but he’s clearly worth a roster spot.

Next: The Starters: Hayden and Carrie