Scott Bair's Raiders Breakdown: Defensive Backs
The Raiders' pass defense did not work well last season, ranking No. 20 with 235.9 yards allowed per game. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 24, with the first practice day scheduled for July 26. Today, Scott focuses on the cornerbacks.
Who they have: Mike Jenkins, Tracy Porter, D. J. Hayden, Phillip Adams, Joselio Hanson, Brandian Ross, Coye Francies, Taiwan Jones, Casey Chance, Chimdi Chekwa, Mitchell White, Cory Nelms.
Who they lost: Patrick Lee, Ron Bartell, Shawnte Spencer
Looking back: Last season’s cornerbacks were an absolute mess. Spencer and Bartell were brought in to start, and both succumbed to injury by the end of Week 2. Lee started seven games, but was cut near midseason after Bartell returned from the injured reserve (designated to return) list. Injuries forced Michael Huff to move out from free safety, where he struggled at times playing out of position. Adams also started a few games as the Raiders tried to survive covering receivers. It didn’t work well, as the pass defense ranked No. 20 with 235.9 yards per game.
Overall outlook: The Raiders upgraded at this position group with a pair of value free agents and by drafting Hayden No. 12 overall. Jenkins and Porter signed reasonable one-year contracts to be full-time starters again. That was the motivation for Jenkins, who lost a starting spot in Dallas last season. Porter started most of three seasons with New Orleans, but missed nearly all of last season with Denver due to injury. Porter dealt with the effects of a preseason seizure and suffered a concussion in December that ended his season. Those issues are behind him, and he’s performed well in the Raiders’ offseason program.
Camp competition: The Raiders didn’t draft Hayden in the first round so he could flush out the depth chart. They want him to start, and his training camp will determine when that will happen. He missed most of the offseason program after having abdominal surgery to remove scar tissue, so he has to play catch up to compete with Jenkins and Porter. Porter has some experience in the slot, and could play there if Hayden plays his way into a starting spot. Hanson also plays nickel. Keep an eye on Jones, converted from running back to corner – he played defense in high school – who should contribute more in the kicking game while adjusting to this position switch.