Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will analyze each position group leading up to Raiders training camp, which starts on July 29.
The Raiders have rotated new starting cornerbacks each season over the past several years. Now they seem to have stability.
Free agent Sean Smith signed a four-year deal with the Raiders back in March. David Amerson signed a four-year contract extension on July 15. That locked up quality scheme fits for a long-term, and added strength to an area of weakness.
The Raiders have depth behind the starting unit, with DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe in reserve. One of them will play in the nickel packages, and that person will be determined during this preseason.
- Sean Smith
- David Amerson
- DJ Hayden
- TJ Carrie
- Neiko Thorpe
- SaQwan Edwards
- Dexter McDonald
- Antonio Hamilton
- Kenneth Durden
1. Can David Amerson build on 2015 season?
David Amerson was unproductive during two-plus seasons in Washington, and the 2013 second-round pick was released after Week 2 last season. The Raiders claimed him off waivers and played him quickly in a scheme where he flourished. Amerson had four interceptions and 26 passes defensed in 14 games with the Raiders, and that earned a big-time contract extension this summer. Amerson has always had talent, but improved work ethic and scheme fit should allow Amerson to thrive again this year.
2. Who works in the slot?
With Smith and Amerson set on the outside, a three-man battle will be waged to play slot cornerback in sub packages. DJ Hayden saw significant time there during the preseason, though TJ Carrie has significant experience in that spot and Neiko Thorpe also played the No. 3 cornerback role at times last season. That’s an important post considering a large percentage of snaps are played with more than two receivers.
3. Can DJ Hayden ‘peel of labels’?
The 2013 first-round pick has struggled with injury and bouts of ineffectiveness over three professional seasons, but head coach Jack Del Rio said he had a productive offseason program and has an opportunity to excel in 2016. Some consider him a bust, though that moniker would prove unfit if he plays well in the present and future. Hayden has quality talent and can be a good NFL player if he puts it all together.