Oakland Raiders cornerback Demarcus Van Dyke at 2011 training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
Oh how the Raiders secondary has changed since last we saw it. The Raiders defense was horrendous last season and the giving up yards in big chunks became expected. In fact, the Raiders season was ended by a 99 yard drive that had just four plays. The secondary needed a set of jumper cables.
Returning to the team, of course, the two rookies the team selected in the 2011 draft, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. Joining them is reserve corner and kick returner Bryan McCann. And brought back for another shot is practice squad player, Terrail Lambert.
Gone are the two starters to begin last season; Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson. They were both overpaid and were sent packing.
Reggie McKenzie and his new head coach Dennis Allen (a fomer defensive backs coach) decided their best bet was to rebuild this unit through free agency. McKenzie grabbed a couple familiar faces in former Packers Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee. Then the team set out to get a couple of proven starters in Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.
The team didn't choose a cornerback in the draft, however. Which means either they are satisfied with the group they have or they just didn't see anyone they especially liked. They signed two undrafted free agent corners Conroy Black and Chaz Powell.
Here is what the Raiders cornerbacks look like as they head into mini camps:
1. Ron Bartell- Was out all of last season with what was feared to be a career-ending neck injury. Prior to his neck injury, he was a solid NFL starting corner. Team doctors cleared him and he was signed to a one-year deal.
2. Shawntae Spencer- Started for the 49ers for many seasons but suffered a hamstring injury in the 2011 preseason. He was replaced by the newly signed Carlos Rogers who played at a Pro Bowl level and ended Spencer's career in San Francisco. The Raiders get a starting caliber corner in Spencer.
3. Chimdi Chekwa- Showed a lot of promise before being lost for the 2011 season with a hamstring injury.
4. DeMarcus Van Dyke- Started a few games last season for the Raiders and played quite well at times.
5. Brandon Underwood- He has some talent. It is mainly his off-field problems that are the concern. Reggie McKenzie seemed to think he was worth a shot and he knew him very well in Green Bay. Underwood can also play free safety if the Raiders asked him to.
6. Bryan McCann- World class speed makes up for some of his faults. He is primarily a kick return specialist but can also contribute in nickel and dime packages.
7. Pat Lee- A former second round pick by the Packers. The Raiders are hoping a new system and coaching staff can bring out the potential he once showed coming out of college.
9. *Conroy Black- Speaking of speed, he ran a 4.31 40-yard dash which was among the fastest at the 2012 combine. That kind of speed would have had draftniks predicting the Raiders to take him with a midround pick. They got the speed guy, but they got him as an undrafted free agent.
10. *Chaz Powell- And intriguing prospect as a two way player for Penn State. He played both wide receiver and corner. He was a wide receiver first and switched to cornerback as a senior. He still has the body of a wide receiver but with a little time in camp and on the practice squad, he may just develop into a good cornerback. Worth taking that chance.
*The Raiders have not officially announced any undrafted free agent signings.