Training camp outlook: Cornerbacks

One story in a series, looking at position breakdowns for the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA on July 28. Today - a look at cornerbacks:

Charles Woodson remains property of the Oakland Raiders but that did not stop the team from drafting cornerbacks with their first two picks in the draft. For the second offseason in as many years, the Raiders placed the franchise tag on Woodson.

This time, however, the Raiders placed the franchise tag on Woodson with the hopes that they could trade him and get some kind of value in return but have not found any takers on his $10-million dollar plus salary. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Woodson could become a safety.

Oakland finally tired of Phillip Buchanon, who gave up more big plays than he made, by trading him to Houston and subsequently drafted Nebraska's Fabian Washington (first round) and Stanford Routt (second round) from the University of Houston. The Raiders were especially fascinated by the sub-4.3 second 40-yard dash speed of both players.

Both players, however, will have to beat out Nnamdi Asomugha for the starting cornerback job opposite Woodson. Oakland brought back, for the time being, Denard Walker, and signed Renaldo Hill to provide depth. Walker, however, was routinely beaten for big plays.

Washington and Routt might have awesome speed but does that mean they are ready to unseat Asomugha? Speed is great but how that translates into NFL coverage skills remains to be seen. Routt doubled as a track star in college. Washington is a bit undersized at 5-11, 185, and on the surface seems like another Buchanon. The good news is that Washington appears to have a better work ethic than Buchanon at least so far.

Asomugha, whom Oakland drafted in the first round in 2003, appears to be ready to become a starter and has shown glimpses of brilliance in his two seasons in Oakland. Asomugha, however, will have to improve not only to win the starting job but for Oakland's pass defense to get better. Oakland ranked 30th overall and against the pass last season. Granted, the fact that the Raiders had a nonexistent pass rush was a big part of the problem but they also can't have corners getting habitually burned either.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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