Washington likely to be picked on

Thomas Howard calls teammate Nnamdi Asomugha the best cornerback in the NFL, but it's going to be the Raiders' other cornerback, Fabian Washington, who will be in the spotlight Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

While Nnamdi Asomugha emerged as a top-tier defensive back last season, leading Oakland with eight interceptions, Fabian Washington was starting to feel the heat as opponents began throwing away from Asomugha's side of the field.

With the Lions in their second year under pass-happy offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Sunday's game with Detroit should serve as a good barometer for the Raiders' secondary in general and for Washington in particular.

"It's extremely important, especially within the system we play, because we put a lot on our corners," Oakland coach Lane Kiffin said. "We don't help them very much in our defensive system because we trust them so much and they're such good players.

"It's going to be no secret teams are going to throw (at Washington). Go back to the St. Louis (preseason) game and the first play of the game, they went at him. So he really needs to play well for us to continue to improve on defense."

The Raiders probably won't be able to stay in their base 4-3 defense, especially if Detroit falls behind early. That means a steady dose of work for backups Stanford Routt, Duane Starks and Chris Carr.

Routt missed much of training camp with a leg injury but returned to practice last week and figures to be on the field plenty against Detroit and its horde of receivers.

"Stanford will obviously play a bunch in this game if they do what we assume they'll do as far as spreading us out personnel-wise," Kiffin said. "He missed a lot of time but he's jumped right back in and he looks really good to me."


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