I had a dream last night that the Oakland Raiders had two cornerbacks ranked in the top 16 among all cornerbacks in the NFL. I woke up...the Raiders still had two cornerbacks rated in the top 16 according to Pro Football Focus. Whether it be a sign of the apocalypse or the descent of Jesus Christ, a phenomenon is occurring in Oakland. For the first time in a decade, the Raiders appear to be set at cornerback.
To find the last time cornerback was a strength for the Silver and Black, you have to rewind to the 2006 season when star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington combined to give up the fewest passing yards in the NFL in an otherwise terrible 2-14 season.
Asomugha was considered the best cornerback in the NFL not named Darrelle Revis. The shutdown corner posted the best season of his career totaling 50 tackles, 8 interceptions, 19 passes defended, and a forced fumble. While Washington had his best season posting 4 interceptions and 15 passes defended. Between the two of them, they gave up just one touchdown throughout the entire season.
Every season since then, the cornerback position has been a major weakness for the Silver and Black. Even through all the years Asomugha was among the best in the league, they couldn't find a reliable corner on the other side of the field.
Now, at long last the massive sinkhole in the Raiders secondary appears to be filled.
The first dirt to fill the crater came after the 2014 NFL Draft in the form of late round gem in T.J. Carrie. As a rookie two seasons ago Carrie quickly emerged as the Raiders top cornerback, but was asked to play safety last season after Nate Allen suffered a knee injury.
Early last season as the Raiders secondary was being torched by opposing offenses until the Redskins waived former 2nd round pick David Amerson and the Raiders signed him.
Amerson quickly earned a starting job and emerged as a disruptive force in the Raiders secondary. Not only did he become the top cornerback on the Raiders, he emerged as one of the best at the position in the NFL and was named most improved player of the year by Pro Football Focus.
In 12 starts last season, Amerson had 29 passed defended (second in the NFL) and also picked off four passes. He also allowed just one touchdown all season on 104 targets.
Even with David Amerson and T.J. Carrie, cornerback was viewed as the predominant need for the Raiders entering the offseason. The top two cornerbacks to hit the market were Sean Smith and Janoris Jenkins. By the next morning, the Raiders had signed Smith to a four-year contract that was significantly less than the one the New York Giants dished out to Jenkins.
The addition of the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Smith looks to be the final truckload of dirt that filled the hole at the cornerback position. Smith has allowed fewer than 60 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught every season of his career. His presence paired with Amerson gives the Raiders the first legit starting cornerback duo they have had in at least a decade. Throw T.J. Carrie into the mix and suddenly, the cornerback position appears to one of the stronger positions for the Silver and Black.
The revamped secondary will reap benefits for Reggie McKenzie during the 2016 NFL Draft. Two weeks ago, it seemed the Raiders were destined to select a cornerback with the 14th overall pick. But unless Vernon Hargreaves somehow falls to Oakland, there may be better value at a different position. Instead of being forced to draft for need, McKenzie now has the flexibility to draft the best player available or to improve a different position.
It was less than six months ago when Raiders owner Mark Davis was documented ripping off the top corners of a piece of paper and handing them to Reggie McKenzie. "Two corners," Davis said. "I need you to get me two corners."
For the first time in a very long time, It looks like the Raiders have those two corners.