Position outlook: Cornerbacks

This is one story in a series of position outlooks for the Oakland Raiders. Today, here's a look at cornerback:

Looking back: This was one position, unlike many others, not severely hammered with injuries but had plenty of ineffectiveness.

Unlike the previous two seasons, Charles Woodson stayed healthy and by and large played well. Woodson, however, was a locker-room distraction last season in openly lambasting former head coach Bill Callahan. Woodson was suspended for the final game of the regular season for missing curfew. Woodson is currently a free agent.

Phillip Buchanon looked electrifying in returning interceptions for touchdowns. While those highlights are most likely to be shown on the 11 o'clock news, the fact that Buchanon gets burned his share of times while trying to gamble for big plays gets lost.

Terrance Shaw had an impressive training camp in initially gaining the inside track as the starting corner opposite Woodson but is clearly better slated to be a backup. Clarence Love started three games in 2002 when injuries devastated the Raider secondary but played very little on defense last season.

Rookie Nnamdi Asomugha showed some promise and versatility in playing both corner and safety. The Raiders envision Asomugha as a corner but injuries at safety made the team look at him there more often.

Looking ahead: Woodson, Shaw and Love are free agents. Woodson is seeking to be the highest paid corner in the NFL but do the Raiders feel such a contract is warranted? The problem the Raiders face here is there are many "ifs." Such as, if he gets along with the new coaching staff, if he is healthy and if he returns to form. Let's also not forget that Oakland has so many holes elsewhere that tying up payroll in one player might not be prudent.

Buchanon enters somewhat of a "crossroads" third season. After spending all but six games on injured reserve as a rookie in 2002, Buchanon was essentially a rookie last season. Again, he might look electrifying with the ball in his hands but he might want to concentrate on giving up fewer big plays before continuing his self-promoting nicknames such as "Showtime" and "PB Style."

Shaw and Love are free agents as well that could become valuable of Woodson leaves. Shaw wants to become a starter but is clearly better suited to being a nickel or dime corner. Love might be invited to training camp since he comes cost effectively but nothing is greatly certain beyond that point.

Asomugha will become a big factor somewhere in the secondary since the Raiders invested a first-round pick on him. The question is where?

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