Cornerbacks Proving Pivotal to Success of Raiders Defense

A lot of credit for the Oakland Raiders’ success this season should go to the team’s improved pass rush and the creative, blitz-happy schemes employed by defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. Equally important, if not more so, has been the recent play of cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter.

While the Raiders’ overall pass defense has been mediocre—they rank 17th, allowing 241 yards a game—Jenkins and Porter have combined to give Oakland its best cornerback tandem since 2001, when Charles Woodson and Eric Allen roamed the secondary.

Woodson is back for another tour with the Raiders, only now the 37-year-old lines up at safety.

A year after the failed experiment with Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer went sour, Jenkins and Porter, the two veteran cornerbacks who signed with Oakland in the offseason, have filled the void in the edge coverage.

Both had interceptions in the Raiders’ Week 8 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first in an Oakland uniform for either player.

Their impact has gone much deeper than just a pair of turnovers in one game, however.

The two men have been instrumental in the rapid development of rookie D.J. Hayden. Oakland’s first-round draft pick got off to a sluggish start this season but has come on in recent weeks and has been playing at a much higher level than he previously had been.

Jenkins and Porter have also teamed with Woodson to form the core of the Raiders defense, though Woodson has been the only one of the three to receive proper credit.

It was Jenkins and Porter who almost single-handedly shut down Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith during a Week 6 loss to the unbeaten Chiefs.

Smith is seventh in the AFC with an 82.1 passer rating while quarterbacking the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team. Yet against the Raiders, Smith passed for just 128 yards and was held to season-lows...

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