Raiders corner Ronald Bartell allows a touchdown catch by the Browns' Josh Gordon in a recent Oakland loss. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Raiders cornerback situation was unsettled over this past offseason, it’s been unsettled throughout this troubled 3-10 season and it’s very unsettled looking ahead to 2013.
It’s clear that the position is one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, and it’s also very clear that the Raiders aren’t shy about pulling the plug on players who don’t work out and moving on to the next option.
That happened Monday, when the Raiders waived Ronald Bartell, one of the team’s two starting corners at the beginning of the season.
The veteran Bartell was acquired in the offseason, along with another veteran, Shawntae Spencer, to solidify what had been a weak spot in 2011 with starters Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson (both were not retained). But both Bartell and Spencer suffered injuries in the first two games of 2012. Spencer has been on injured reserve ever since, and Bartell’s play has been poor since he returned to action. He started the past five games, all losses.
The ejection of Bartell means more playing time for Phillip Adams, who has two interceptions over the past two games. Adams (claimed Sept. 1 from Seattle) has played 35 games for four teams – the 49ers, Patriots, Seahawks and Raiders – but will likely make his first NFL start Sunday when the 2-11 Chiefs visit O.co Coliseum.
Also signed to the active roster from the practice squad was cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, a fourth-round draft choice from Ohio State last year.
The injuries to Spencer and Bartell this season forced the Raiders to audition a number of players at corner, including Pat Lee (since released) and Michael Huff (moved from safety).
On Monday, Huff came to practice and learned Bartell had been let go. The move, though tough to take he says, is just another indication the team’s coaching staff and management is constantly looking for ways to improve the team.
The Raiders have been horrible against the pass this season, ranking 28th in the league. The Raiders are allowing 259 yards per game through the air and opposing quarterbacks have completed 66.5 percent of all passes attempted.
“Definitely, definitely tough, but obviously part of the business,” Huff told Eric Gilmore of CBSSports.com. “From Day 1, they’ve always said they’re going to have the best players in here, they’re going to do things, so I don’t really take anything different (from it) than what they said in August when they first got here.”
Huff says Adams, who likely will start at right corner Sunday, “makes plays, gets picks.”
“Great technique,” Huff said of Adams. “If it’s his number called, he’ll be just fine.”
If Adams – and Chekwa, in a reserve role – play well over the final three games of the season, they could be in the mix for 2013. But Huff’s future is cloudy (will he stay at corner or return to safety?) and throws another variable into Oakland’s secondary picture for next season.
One thing is certain, though: If the Raiders want to make improvements on a defense that leads the NFL in points allowed (30.9 per game), finding a solid pair of cornerbacks for next season is imperative.