The Oakland Raiders went into last season at this position hoping that Ray Buchanan put pull off a late career transition from cornerback to safety like future Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson. Instead, the man nicknamed "Big Play Ray" because of the ones he used to make was more of a reflection of the ones he gave up.
Oakland has since released Buchanan and is banking on second-year man Stuart Schweigert to improve significantly at free safety. The team is, once again, hoping that the light finally goes on for fifth year man Derrick Gibson even though he has done nothing in his career to warrant such a belief.
Schweigert had a checkered rookie season but showed enough potential that Oakland felt Buchanan was expendable. Gibson missed all of last season with a shoulder injury but even when healthy he has not turned into the hard-hitting safety the Raiders felt they were getting when spending a first-round draft pick on him in 2001. The burning question is how many more chances does Gibson get before the Raiders write off that mistake?
There has been speculation that cornerback Charles Woodson could eventually move to safety. Woodson occasionally played safety last year and could this year too. Just don't expect it to be on a full-time basis with the Raiders having drafted two rookie cornerbacks (Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt). Unless they develop sooner than expected.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com