When the Raiders lost All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency last month, they knew they had some big cleats to fill.
New head coach Hue Jackson acknowledged the loss at the time, but said other players would just have to step up.
“As I’ve always said, it’s next man up for us,” he told reporters.
In Thursday night’s exhibition loss to Arizona, however, it appeared there’s still plenty of stepping up to be done.
Starting corners Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson played just the first series against the Cardinals before giving way to rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke and second-year man Walter McFadden.
As columnist Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, the two “were routinely puzzled, beaten or flagged.” The Chronicle’s Vittorio Tafur wrote that the gap between the starting corners and the backups “is huge.”
Van Dyke was beaten early in the game by Larry Fitzgerald on a 43-yard pass play, and the tandem was on the field for all three Arizona touchdown passes. Van Dyke was victimized on Arizona’s first TD pass, with 25 seconds to go in the first half, when backup QB John Skelton hit Stephen Williams in the end zone on an 18-yard play.
Arizona passed for almost 300 yards in the game – most of it after starting QB Kevin Kolb was pulled.
The departure of Asomugha creates a ripple effect through the entire secondary.
Corners McFadden, Van Dyke and Jeremy Ware all struggled, said Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times, as did backup safeties Hiram Eugene, Stevie Brown and Jeremy Boyd.
The Raiders are counting on these players to “fill the void” left by Asomugha, Corkran wrote, but “It’s apparent that doing so isn’t going to be as easy as hoped for.”
To make matters worse, Eugene was carted off the field in the third quarter after suffering what’s been reported as a dislocated hip, and likely will be out for quite a while.