In an undrafted free agent class short on standouts, one Raiders rookie has been showing up all offseason. Former Duke Blue Devil Breon Borders was making plays throughout OTA’s and minicamp and a week into training camp is now running with the first team.
It’s the kind of meteoric rise you rarely see from an undrafted rookie. Especially on a team that seemed to have two entrenched starting corners and a veteran slot corner.
“Every time I turn the film on it’s like he makes a play,” Derek Carr said of Borders. “I think that that’s how those guys catch your eye. When you’re an undrafted guy, it’s hard because obviously you’re not going to have the first- or second-team reps all the time, obviously. All that you can see is, ‘Man, who’s 31?’ kind of a thing. And then throughout the offseason and here at camp, he’s really proven himself.”
It was the demotion of starting corner, Sean Smith, to second team that precipitated the move. But there were several other corners who could have been selected for the move up. It was Borders who got the call.
The first team cornerbacks the past two days have been David Amerson and TJ Carrie on the outside with Borders manning the slot. Equally astounding is the fact that he has never played the position outside of a few reps on college.
The 5-11, 189-pounder is already become well aware of how difficult playing the slot can be in the NFL.
“The outside corner kinda has the sideline to help you out,” said Borders. “When I’m on the inside, the receiver’s got a two-way go, he’s a super quick receiver, and I gotta account for the run too. It’s a challenge.”
Logically speaking it would seem like Antonio Hamilton would be next in line to play the slot. That is if you are going by experience. Hamilton was an undrafted rookie last year appearing in four games. Borders has played well enough to leapfrog Hamilton who continues to see slot duties on the second team.
Working with the first team is a LOT different than working with the third team.
“I would say just about everything [is different].” said Borders. “It gets faster, the physicality is ramped up, and it’s just a grind, it’s a challenge. Derek Carr, he’s an awesome quarterback, he knows a few of my tendencies, he reads defenses pretty good and it’s a challenge.”
Even with the clamoring for a spot on the roster and playing time, Borders said he has received advice from every one of the team’s veteran corners including Sean Smith and even Antonio Hamilton; the man with whom he appears to be in direct competition for a roster spot.
As is usually the case, who wins that fifth and likely final cornerback roster spot will depend largely on special teams. Borders played a lot of special teams in his four years at Duke, adding that he’s “pretty well suited” for it.
The Raiders have a lot of special teams spots open after having lost five of their top special teams players from last season. Gaining favor with special teams coach Brad Seely will be key to his success. That starts in practice.