Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie seems ready to take the training wheels off his secondary. Veterans imported each year to provide leadership and expertise especially nurtured his young cornerbacks for a few seasons.
Those days might well be over.
McKenzie said, prior to free agency, that his young cover men didn’t need mentors for mentoring’s sake. Nearly three weeks into free agency, his actions support that claim. The Raiders only signed one cornerback, a reserve in James Dockery. While a veteran may be added at some point – Tarell Brown remains unsigned, recovering from offseason foot surgery – the Raiders seem comfortable with their lot at this spot.
They have 2013 first-round pick DJ Hayden slated to take one starting spot. TJ Carrie played significant snaps as a rookie in 2014, and could start on the outside. He also has experience playing in the slot. Keith McGill flashed potential in limited action after being one of the team’s fourth-round picks.
Safety Brandian Ross has played well in the slot, and could fit in there now that Nate Allen seems likely to start alongside Charles Woodson at strong safety.
New head coach Jack Del Rio seems comfortable with this talented group, which needs experience to develop. If these players can stay healthy, Del Rio expects them to do so.
“As a staff coming in and evaluating, we felt like that was one of the more talented positions that needed to develop,” Del Rio said last week at the NFL owners meetings. “Certainly staying healthy will be important for DJ. Carrie played well in his role. We feel like that group has a chance to develop beyond where they are.
"There are pretty solid young guys right there that we look forward to working with and helping them play at a higher level.”
The Raiders have plenty of playing experience in the coaching staff, especially in the secondary. Former All-Pro safety Marcus Robertson was promoted to defensive backs coach and Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson is his assistant.