During the Reggie McKenzie Era, the Raiders suffered through many terrible cornerbacks. We all remember Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Although we attempt to forget, their time in Oakland became a dark part in Raiders history. When the Raiders drafted DJ Hayden, the collective heart RaiderNation sank. Yet, no one knew that Hayden would accrue fifteen pass interference penalties and never learn to turn his head. On the other hand, in 2016, Hayden played a fair nickel corner. When he left for the Lions, a vacancy opened. Here are the two contenders.
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TJ Carrie: Now, we all know that Carrie built himself into a solid, if not unspectacular player. He rose from late round afterthought to contributor. As Hayden left for the NFC, Carrie may assume the nickel spot. Immediately, what jumps out is how Carrie plays. As mentioned, no one expected him to play this long in the NFL. Yet, he shows up and does his job. Film shows Carrie with a “nothing to lose” attitude. To put it another way, Carrie plays looser. Hayden was a first round draft pick, saddled with expectation. As a result, Carrie can breathe on the field. Therefore, he can afford to jump a route. Unfortunately, Carrie does lack the blazing speed most corners enjoy. While he is not turtle-like, his ability to change slight direction can be an issue.
Gareon Conley: When the Raiders selected him 24th overall in April, media and fans alike appeared shocked. However, with a rape investigation pending, Conley fell to Oakland. From OTA and coach quotes, the team remains impressed. Tall, long-limbed corner with cover skills and speed are not common. While he waiting his turn as a main corner, Conley could see time in the nickel. If he is exonerated in the rape case, Conley will still not crack the top two. The Raiders have too much invested in Sean Smith and David Amerson to sit either one.
Honestly, the Raiders seem in a better position to fill the corner spot than they were just a year ago. Granted, Hayden’s speed could’ve been used here, the lack of instinct never improved. Consequently, Carrie and Conley will vie for the job. The lone question remains as to which one grabs the spot.