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Raiders need a sleeper to emerge at cornerback

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Raiders rookie cornerback, TJ Carrie
Raiders rookie cornerback, TJ Carrie
Levi Damien

Training camp has begun but the training camp previews continue. No position has been more difficult to fill for the Raiders than cornerback. You'd think with a head coach who has his roots as a defensive backs coach, this position would be one of the stronger ones. But thus far in Dennis Allen's tenure, that has not been the case. And the outlook for this year's camp is shaky.

Here is how the cornerback position looks for this year's training camp.

The players

CB          DJ Hayden           Carlos Rogers Keith McGill Chance Casey Jansen Watson

CB          Tarell Brown Chimdi Chekwa TJ Carrie              Taiwan Jones Neiko Thorpe

What's new?

Both of last year's starters - Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins -- are gone. They are replaced by the signing of Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. Keith McGill was the team's fourth round draft pick and TJ Carrie was selected as their first seventh round pick. They later signed Jansen Watson as an undrafted free agent.

The big question

Can DJ Hayden get/stay healthy?

Hayden has spent less than 3 months of his Raiders career healthy. He has now missed two full off-seasons with injury and has been injured coming into both of his first two training camps. Now it's a stress fracture in his foot and his timetable is uncertain. The team expects to have him back for at least some of camp but that remains to be seen. He's already behind even if he does return in short order. He has already become known as a fragile player so the team must try and plan for the possibility this former first round pick won't be available.

Best case scenario

Cornerback depth can emerge. Carlos Rogers is stepping into the starting role in place of Hayden for the time being. If Hayden were healthy, Rogers would be the nickel corner, playing the slot. Beyond that, there is uncertainty. Dennis Allen has praised the play of Chimdi Chekwa and rookie seventh round pick, TJ Carrie. Keith McGill is an option as well as he was the first corner the Raiders chose in this draft (fourth round). The man not to be forgotten is last year's surprise, Chance Casey. If one or more of them can step up, it will be much needed insurance and depth at a shaky position.

Worst case scenario

Hayden can't stay healthy and Carlos Rogers struggles. Rogers is 33-years-old and is on the downslope. In the past couple years, the Raiders have been forced to start corners who were in the twilight of their careers and have not had a high success rate. The position is thin as it is without having to go through a cornerback carousel again.

Random facts

Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie both grew up in the East Bay city of Antioch. They were just a year apart so they faced each other in High School three years with Jones attended Deer Valley and Carrie attended De La Salle. Maurice Jones-Drew also grew up in Antioch and attended De La Salle.

Chekwa was part of what is turning out to be a pretty good looking 2011 Raiders draft class that featured four starters - Stefen Wisniewski, Joe Barksdale (Rams), Denarius Moore, and David Ausberry - and five of the eight players selected still on the team including Taiwan Jones. In contrast none of the players from the previously considered very successful 2010 draft are still in Oakland.

The two current first team corners are Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. They were the 49ers starting cornerbacks the past three seasons. Neither of them re-signed and jumped to the other side of the bay to team up with the Raiders.