Re: Training camp battles
Raiders No. 2 Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Renaldo Hill vs. Denard Walker vs. Fabian Washington vs. Stanford Routt
Asomugha has great size, speed and athletic ability. The problem is that he hasn't progressed nearly as fast as the team would have liked. Right now, he doesn't look natural because his recognition skills are inconsistent and his technique is poor. Regardless, Asomugha is the best option right now and also has more upside than any cornerback playing behind him. That's why Asomugha will go into the season as a starter.
Hill and Walker are simply fill-the-gap backups while Washington and Routt develop. Hill is solid as a sub-package zone cornerback because he's quick and instinctive, but he has just decent size and lacks the speed to turn and run vertically. Walker was once a solid starter but the 31 year old lost a step and no longer matches up well in anything but soft underneath zone coverage.
Both of the team's rookie cornerbacks have explosive speed, but Washington was the fastest player in the 2005 draft class and he's a lot more polished as a three-year starter coming out of Nebraska. Routt is bigger than Washington, but he's a track star turned football player whose learning curve should be relatively steep.
If Washington and Routt show signs of progress in training camp, Walker will be the odd man out. In that scenario, look for Asomugha to start opposite Woodson in Week 1, with Hill serving as the No. 3, Washington as the No. 4 and Routt as the No. 5. Washington should overtake Hill as the nickel cornerback by season's end.
Furthermore, if the Raiders' three young cornerbacks develop enough over the course of the next year, there's a strong possibility that Charles Woodson will be asked to move to FS in 2006, leaving Asomugha and Washington as the starters and Routt serving as the nickel.
Projected Winner: Asomugha