It seems like every training camp features a battle at cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. It’s a position that the team has been trying to address every since they let Nnamdi Asomugha leave in free agency. And in recent years, the camp battles for the starting corner position were, well, rather underwhelming. There was the brief moment after he was signed and before Sean Smith played his first snap for the team when we had hope, but besides that, it’s been painful watching the corner position for the Raiders whether it be in training camp, pre season or the regular season.
But this year just might be different. No, I wouldn’t argue that corner will be a strength of the Raiders or even argue that the Raiders will have a good cornerback situation. But it sure does look like it’s a lot better than it has been in years and part of that is due to the fact that there are talented players who will need to compete for a starting role, rather than have it handed to them.
In the battle for a starting role with the Raiders will be Gareon Conley, Rashaan Melvin, Daryl Worley, Marcus Gilchrist, Nick Nelson, Leon Hall, Shareece Wright and Dexter McDonald.
In all likelihood, Leon Hall, Shareece Wright and Dexter McDonald are three guys who will be battling for a roster postioin, not a starting role. And in all likelihood, only one of the three has a shot at making the roster. It’s a back end competition that won’t be very exciting per se, but could mean a lot if the Raiders have injury issues at the position at sometime this season.
But the real excitement will be found in the competition between Conley, Melvin, Worley, Gilchrist and Nelson for starting roles as well as playing time.
Now, before we go any further, I’m sure many of you have noticed that I’ve listed Marcus Gilchrist, a safety, as one of the people who will be competing with the corners in training camp. That’s because Gilchrist is incredibly versatile and has a lot of experience playing nickel corner. That’s something the Raiders could end up utilizing if they don’t feel confident in the corners they have at the nickel position.
Unless Gareon Conley looks terrible in camp and the preseason, I think he’s all but guaranteed to be a starter come opening day. He’s the most talented corner on the roster and the Raiders have a lot invested in the second year player, so they will want to see what he can do. If he’s bad, he might lose the starting role, but I’d be rather surprised if he didn’t start the year as one of the top two corners on the depth chart.
Starting opposite of Conley is a whole other question. I think many assume that Rashaan Melvin will be the number two corner, and there’s a very good chance of that. But Daryl Worley will have something to say on that topic as well. If not for a run-in with the police during the offseason, Worley would not even have been on the free agent market. The Eagles had just traded for Worley but cut their losses after he was arrested. Now that his legal issues are behind him, Worley will look to salvage his career with the Raiders.
The nickel competition will likely feature Gilchrist and Nick Nelson while the coaching staff will probably take a look at Conley, Melvin and Worley in the role as well. Most of the competition from this group will surround whether or not fourth round rookie Nick Nelson can surprise everyone and win a significant role with the team in his rookie year