Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp, which opens on July 31.
Who they have: TJ Carrie, Chimdi Chekwa, Robertson Daniel, James Dockery, Ras-I Dowling, SaQwan Edwards, DJ Hayden, Dexter McDonald, Keith McGill, Neiko Thorpe
Who they lost: Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Taiwan Jones (switched to running back), Chance Casey
Looking back: The Raiders relied on a new crop of veteran cornerbacks, something they’d done for three straight seasons. Former 49er Tarell Brown provided quality coverage throughout the year despite playing through injury. Carlos Rogers started early, but was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury after seven starts.
DJ Hayden took over at midseason with mixed results. Seventh-round pick TJ Carrie emerged as a surprise contributor outside and in the slot. Fourth-rounder Keith McGill was sidelined most of the year with a groin injury, but showed potential playing significant snaps over the season’s last two weeks.
Overall outlook: The Raiders broke their cycle of bringing in veteran starters on one-year contracts. A youth movement began this offseason, leaving the Raiders without a safety net. Hayden, Carrie and McGill should be the first line of defense in the passing game. While Hayden saw some second-team reps during the offseason program, he’s still expected to be a fixture in the starting 11. Carrie could start outside and slip into the slot in the sub package.
At 6-foot-3, 211 pounds, McGill fits the mold of a modern corner. Defensive backs with size and physicality – McGill is a converted safety – fit the scheme defense coordinator Ken Norton ran in Seattle. McGill is green, but could be asked to contribute right away.
Dexter McDonald, a seventh-round pick in 2015, is a talented player with room to grow. The grade of his learning curve remains unknown.
Camp competition: The Raiders’ starting cornerbacks aren’t set in stone, though Hayden, Carrie and McGill should take the majority of snaps this season. All three have an injury history, which makes backup roles particularly crucial.
Problem is, the Raiders are incredibly thin in that department. Neiko Thorpe will fight for snaps after limited action last year. Free-agent signee James Dockery will be in the mix. So will McDonald, who will have a chance to develop within the organization at the least.
Don’t rule out additions later this preseason should some young players struggle early on.
Bottom line: After some questions about his future, I believe Hayden will own a starting spot and be given a chance to prove himself during a season where personal progress is required. Carrie is a solid cover man, a statement secured after he allowed just 9.7 yards per reception as a rookie. McGill will be a factor this season, and McDonald could swipe that No. 4 spot in time.