Al Davis’ favorite position has seen one of the greatest to ever play it over the past eight seasons in Nnamdi Asomugha. On the other side, it has been quite another story with a new starter every season for the past four seasons and often times more than one new starter in a season.
The left cornerback position has been in flux since Charles Woodson was allowed to leave back in 2006. Luckily, that was when Nnamdi began to show his lockdown abilities on the right side. But a Haynes/Hayes caliber cornerback tandem has continued to elude Davis and the Raiders. The Raiders frequently draft corners, and in the case of DeAngelo Hall, trade away draft picks for them.
Now Oakland faces the very real possibility of losing their All Pro corner in free agency and being at one of their weakest points at the position since 1998 — before Charles Woodson was drafted. But for now, here is what the group looks like.
He is technically still a Raider. And there is still a slight chance he will remain a Raider. Asomugha is the best corner in the NFL and one of the greatest Raider corners of all time, but the Raiders might be watching him walk away. If he stays, he will lock down the right cornerback spot as he always does. He will continue to be the most complete corner in the NFL with his speed, size, coverage, and tackling abilities. But those talents come at a great price. Most figures estimate around $16 million which was about what he was expected to make this season anyway had his contract not voided itself. Whether he is worth the money is not what matters. What matters is that the Raiders are much better with him than without him.
There are two different camps on Routt, depending on which stats you are looking at. You could say he played quite well due to an unofficial stat that says he had one of the lowest completion percentages in the NFL. On the other hand you could look at another unofficial stat that he had one of the highest yards per catch rating and touchdowns given up. I prefer not to pay too much attention to stats and simply watch the tape, which reveals a guy who was hot and cold. From one play to the next, he can go from having great coverage to getting abused. He’ll make a great looking play and then have a long pass interference penalty. Routt is also not a very solid tackler. However, at the end of the day, he is starting material in this league, with room and potential to get better. He worked hard at it in the offseason last year and you could see some of that hard work pay off during the season. If he maintains that work ethic, he will improve. But if he keeps arguing with the official stats that say he gave up 99 catches by displacing blame onto his teammates, that won’t carry him very far.
Chris Johnson started two seasons ago after replacing DeAngelo Hall. Johnson played tremendously well for the team that season. He didn’t have a tough act to follow after Hall got lit up by nearly every receiver he faced. Eventually Johnson would lose his job to Routt, but when called upon to play in spot duty, Johnson has played admirably. He could resume a starting role next season if Nnamdi leaves. While I don’t think that would be disastrous, it is not ideal.
Walter McFadden had a fine training camp and looked like he could have been a nice find in round five of the draft. But when he was given his shot in the regular season, he didn’t look good at all. That doesn’t mean he can’t improve but at this time the Raiders don’t know what they have in him. They can’t be overly confident having him as a potential nickel corner.
Jeremy Ware also played well in training camp and often drew praise from then head coach Tom Cable. He showed some fine hitting ability in the preseason and many wondered if an eventual shift to safety could be in the cards for him. He had some nice moments in the 2010 season including a pivotal interception in the endzone against the Chiefs. He has shown flashes of why the Raiders drafted him and is well worth the round seven pick they spent. But, like McFadden, the Raiders don’t know what they have in him yet.
First and foremost, if Nnamdi leaves, there are some huge shoes to fill. But even if the Raiders can somehow pull out a way to keep him, they still seriously lack depth at the position. It appears there will be no CBA before the draft and, with the lockout, there might not be one until the season is upon us. Regardless, the Raiders must look at drafting a corner. Free Agency may not happen for quite some time and the Raiders can’t chance it; taking a flyer on another low round corner won’t cut it. They must get a corner no later than round three of the draft.
Roster Status: Desperate
Also see analyses: