Al Davis loved his cornerbacks. So it stands to reason unlike many positions for the Raiders in the past ten years, the Raiders had elite cornerbacks. It also stands to reason the Raiders have no had elite corners since Davis' passing.
Elite corners are not easy to find. Even harder is putting another very good corner on the same field. It also doesn't help that most of the time they were on an island not just as a man corner but as the only great defensive player on the team.
The question today is to project how the Raiders 2014 corners rank among them.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha, Stanford Routt (2010)
This was Nnamdi Asomugha's final season in Oakland before he was allowed to leave as a free agent to Philadelphia. There is a stat which Pro Football Focus keeps which is catches given up per coverage snap. Nnamdi was in the top spot in that category for FIVE STRAIGHT YEARS. It might have been six but they didn't start tracking it until 2007. This particular season, there wasn't even a close second. Darrelle Revis was a very distant second with Asante Samuel a close third. What sets this season apart from most of his seasons with the Raiders is not just because of his usual lock-down play or his being named All Pro again - although those things certainly helped. It was because Stanford Routt had the best season of any Raiders cornerback to line up opposite Nnamdi. He was ranked 17th on that same PFF stat for that season (that's very good). Only one other team (Green Bay) had two corners ahead of that.
2. Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson (2009)
This season, Nnamdi's performance was yet again lock down. He was actually thrown a pass he could intercept in this season and was named the Pro Bowl. This was the only full season Chris Johnson started for the Raiders and it was actually pretty good. He had three interceptions and the most passes defended (18) in a single season of any Raiders corner outside of the last season opposing quarterbacks actually tested Nnamdi (19 in 2006).
3. Nnamdi Asomugha, Stanford Routt (2007)
This was the first season quarterbacks stayed well away from Nnamdi's side of the field. Though somehow the Pro Bowl voters hadn't quite caught onto that fact yet so he was left off that roster. Routt again had a decent ranking on that PFF catches allowed per coverage snap stat (20) and he added 3 interceptions.
4. Nnamdi Asomugha, Fabian Washington (2006)
Ah, the last season NFL quarterbacks tested Nnamdi's side of the field. But not before he had collected 8 interceptions and 19 passes defended. And he did it while opposing offenses were choosing to run the ball almost exclusively against these Raiders. Fabian was not all he was hoped to have been as a first round pick but he added 4 interceptions of his own as well as 15 passes defended in 2006. If you get caught up in numbers, you might think this duo deserves the top spot. But I don't get caught up in numbers. Interceptions are great. Making opposing offenses plan around your side of the field is better.
5. Philip Buchanon, Charles Woodson (2004)
Here we go. The first appearance of a cornerback duo without Nnamdi in it. It's also the last season in which Charles Woodson was part of it. By the time Asomugha was a shut-down corner, NFL fans got it. When Charles Woodson was doing it in Oakland, many fans didn't get it. He also shut down his receiver and therefore would not see the ball much. And his time in Oakland as well as how it unceremoniously ended were nearly identical to Nnamdi's. Eight years with the team, then on the brink of 30, the Raiders didn't want to pay to keep him and let him walk as a free agent. Philip Buchanon had marginal success after leaving the Raiders but he was incredibly frustrating for the Raiders. Tim Brown summed it up nicely when he said "Phillip giveth, and Phillip taketh away", meaning he makes big plays but he also gives up big plays and makes stupid mental mistakes. It's the reason this was his final season in Oakland.
6. Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo Hall/Chris Johnson (2008)
Speaking of stupid mistakes; DeAngelo Hall. Not him specifically but the trade the Raiders made to get him. He was an outright disaster. He was burnt so much, they sent him out of Oakland in an urn. Despite having sent a second round pick to the Falcons to get him along with giving him a huge new contract, Hall was cut at midseason. Chris Johnson took over and looked like a Pro Bowler by comparison. He had three interceptions and 12 passes defended over seven starts which is quite good. Oh, and Nnamdi made All Pro for the first time.
7. Tarell Brown, DJ Hayden/Carlos Rogers (2014)
It could be said that Tarell Brown is the best signing the Raiders made this off-season. He is a very good starter and is still in his twenties (29). He is not up there with a young CWood or Nnamdi but he is very good. On the other side there's DJ Hayden who can't seem to stay on the practice field, let alone the game field. His injury history is already getting long. He came to the Raiders a few months removed from heart surgery after a life-threatening injury in college. He then needed a second surgery to remove scar tissue from his abdomen which caused him to miss the entire 2013 off-season and had him in a non-contact jersey all through last year's camp. He resumed full contact near the end of the preseason but seemed timid and lacked aggressiveness in games. He then went out with a groin injury midseason and was placed on IR. Now, just like last year, he has been out all but one practice this off-season with an ankle injury. He has been sporting a walking boot, last said to have been as recently as a couple weeks ago which is MUCH longer than originally expected and is worrisome. At this point counting on him to be healthy is risky. Even if he can stay healthy, we don't know what to expect from him. He showed some promise as a rookie but mostly struggled, which is typical of rookie corners. If he can't go, the next option is the 33-year-old Carlos Rogers who will be playing the slot if Hayden is in the lineup.
8. Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins (2013)
With all the best corners off the market, these two were the best of what was left and signed with the Raiders on cheap one-year deals. They were somewhere between serviceable and subpar. Jenkins seemed to get caught with his pants down a bit more often than Porter did and their stats showed signs of that. Porter had 2 interceptions, 13 passes defended and gave up 4 touchdowns. Jenkins had 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended and gave up 5 touchdowns.
9. Nnamdi Asomugha, Renaldo Hill, Fabian Washington (2005)
This was pre-Nnamdi-we-came-to-know. It was his first full season as a starting cornerback. He had decent passes defended numbers (14) but couldn't locate the ball yet to make them count. This season the Raiders used nickel almost exclusively so Hill and Washington were also on the field with one less linebacker. Hill was a decent cornerback for the team while Fabian was your typical bumbling rookie corner, thinking his speed can make up for mental mistakes. These three had one whole interception between them (Hill).
10. Stanford Routt, DeMarcus Van Dyke (2011)
A number one corner, Stanford Routt was not. He was being paid like one and was cut after this season. The Chiefs then signed him and they soon figured this out; cutting him after seven games. He had good numbers that season with 4 interceptions and 15 passes defended. The problem was all the times he was left in the exhaust trail of his receiver, which happened far too often. He led the NFL in touchdown catches given up (9). It was Van Dyke's rookie season and his only season with the Raiders. He was soft and like Routt was only a Raider because of his blazing 40 time.
11. Michael Huff, Ron Bartell/Pat Lee (2012)
The starting cornerbacks were scrap heap veterans Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell. Both of them were out with injuries by week two. This caused Michael Huff to move to corner from the safety position. He actually played a decent bit of corner which was pretty lucky considering the desperate situation the Raiders were in. Though his replacement at safety, Matt Giordano, only made matters worse. Bartell came back in week nine and after week 13 was cut. He was replaced by Pat Lee who played well in the brief spurts he actually played. He seemed to get hurt every time he touched the field. It was pretty much the most clusterf-ked secondary the Raiders have had in some time.