Raiders focus on cornerback?

The Oakland Raiders in need of a cornerback? Surely there are other pressing needs? Now imagine a world in which either Nnamdi Asomugha or Fabian Washington is hurt. Are you comfortable?

Today's NFL requires three dominant cornerbacks to be on the field with so many teams offering up multiple wide receiver sets and often exploiting matchups.

While the Raiders defense has been strong, they haven't closed the door to adding a cornerback.

It has never been more difficult to find a solid cornerback. Receivers are bigger and faster than ever before and an increased emphasis on illegal contact downfield has restricted what defenders can do to stop them. So it is understandable why A.J. Davis, a true cover corner with four years of collegiate experience, is expected to solicit plenty of interest on draft day.

Davis, a 5-foot-10, 186 lb. defender from North Carolina State, had an outstanding college career. His career totals include 152 tackles, 33 pass break-ups and four picks. Although his interception numbers are modest, he became a playmaker once the ball was in his hands, averaging more than 27 yards per return.

Equally important for the NFL rookie-to-be is his ability to contribute on special teams. In 2003, he spent some time as a kick returner, averaging 21.6 yards per return. In 2006, he played 40 snaps on special teams.

But while his pro career may begin with a lot of special teams work, he will be expected to earn his keep on defense. Davis realizes that his top priority during his off-season workouts is to prove to scouts he can excel in that role.

"I need to show I can play off-coverage man. I come from a system where we played a lot of press," Davis said.

Unfortunately for Davis, he did not have the type of strong showing he was hoping to put forth during Senior Bowl week. His reaction time appeared sub-par and he seemed to lack closing speed. He did show some fluidity and the ability to protect against the big play, but overall he appeared unspectacular.

Now, Davis has until April 28, 2007 to prove he is better than his lackluster showing in Mobile, Ala. As he sees its, pre-draft performances mean even more than his four years worth of game film when it comes to determining his draft status.

"Film is film. You wouldn't be here if you didn't have great film. Now, it is how you play with all this pressure on you," said Davis early during Senior Bowl week. "Then, at the combine, it is how do you perform? How fast are you? How high do you jump? That covers the measurables."

His combination of film and measurables has been good enough to merit the attention of several NFL teams. Davis is a well spoken and articulate individual, meaning he likely shined during most private interview sessions.

Davis could very well blossom into a solid nickel back and more, a reliable special teams contributor, and a positive locker room presence. His strong grasp of teamwork and unity coupled with his understanding of the big game will make him an asset to an NFL team. Are the Raiders willing to make that commitment?

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