Oakland Raiders cornerback Shawntae Spencer at 2012 mini camps (photo by Levi Damien)
Like the safeties, the cornerbacks in the AFC West are also pretty good top to bottom. No rookies slated to start in the bunch. Just proven performers across the board. The question then becomes; who has proven the most?
There's an increasing premium on good corners in the NFL. The league is leaning more and more toward the pass and one slip up can mean a house call for the offense. This is especially true in the AFC West where every team boasts a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Here are my ranking of the AFC West by each team's cornerbacks:
Every year, we say "This has to be the year Champ Bailey is done" and every year, he looks solid again. Since his second year in the league, he has been a Pro Bowler every season but one (he played in only nine games that season.) Until at least that streak stops, I won't count him out. As for Porter, he was a coveted free agent that the Raiders would have liked to have but couldn't afford.
Flowers is the lead singer of the rock band "The Killers." Oh wait, sorry, different Brandon Flowers. This Brandon Flowers is more of a killer of sorts on the field. In the past three seasons, he has averaged nearly 4 interceptions per season and 19 passes defended. As for Routt, Raider fans know him well. He is known for being a pretty good man defender. However, he is also a penalty machine. He led the Raiders with 17 penalties last season. That's a killer of a different sort.
Jammer has been the Chargers number one corner for the past ten seasons. He has never been elite but still solid for the most part and very good at other times. He had a bad season last year. Denarius Moore made him look silly when the Raiders played the Chargers. Cason is a good young corner opposite him.
I will admit it was tough putting this unit at the bottom of this list. Both have played well in their career but it remains to be seen if they will return to form. Bartell is completely healed from his neck injury and that played no part in this. He was a solid starting corner for a long time with the Rams. He doesn't have the interception numbers due in large part to the Rams having an overall terrible team. He also doesn't take a lot of chances. But not being a gambler means he doesn't get beat often. Spencer went out last year with a hamstring injury and lost his starting job to free agent acquisition, Carlos Rogers. He later asked for his release and it was granted. He will look to show he is still starter material. Don't get me wrong, I think these two are going to play well. There is simply a good overall group of corners in the AFC West ahead of them.