As we work our way through the defense, it's time to see if the Raiders' cornerback crew has improved since last season.
This one wasn't a hard decision. Last year's group was a complete disaster. Let's recap: The starters to begin the season were veteran free agent signees Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Ron Bartell went down was lost to injury in week one and Spencer was lost in week two. Due to the lack of quality depth, the team moved Michael Huff over from safety to corner. Huff struggled to make the transition early in the season while the other corner position was a revolving door of corners who couldn't manage to stay healthy long enough to establish themselves.
Bartell was released midseason and Spencer was placed on IR and not brought back. Michael Huff was cut due to his high salary and even if he had stayed, he would have moved back to free safety. That meant a complete overhaul of the cornerbacks... again.
This time, instead of taking a risk on old and injury prone cast-offs, they signed two young free agents in Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins who were among the best value free agents on the market. The team also made cornerback their top priority in the draft, grabbing D.J. Hayden with the number 12 overall pick in the first round.
Both Porter (26) and Jenkins (28) are still young and each of them have several years of starting experience. They both had down seasons last year but it was not as simple as getting injured.
Porter had a seizure just prior to the season last year with the Broncos and suffered from the after effects all season long. But it is considered a one-time occurrence and he is fully recovered.
Jenkins had shoulder surgery last off-season and saw his starting job taken when the Cowboys used their first round pick on cornerback Morris Claiborne. He was ready to go by midseason but wasn't given his starting job back so he wanted out of Dallas to find a place he could be a starter. That place could be Oakland.
Add D.J. Hayden to the mix and the Raiders have three young corners who could all potentially start. This is a stark contrast to last season which began with two old corners and soon were a patchwork of warm bodies.
In addition, Joselio Hanson returns to man the slot corner position as well as Phillip Adams, who showed great potential last season but couldn't manage to stay healthy. Brandian Ross showed flashes last season as well but the team has moved him to safety. If he is moved back to corner, he further strengthens this already deep unit. Yes, I said "deep". A foreign word to the Raiders secondary of late.