In early August, Dennis Allen described the nickel cornerback position as one that’s in “a whole different world.” “It’s a unique position,” Allen continued, “because it’s a cornerback spot that’s part linebacker too. It takes a special ability, a unique skill set to play in the slot. That’s true from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint.”
After a dismal preseason coupled with an equally as poor season opener, Tracy Porter has shown anything but the requisite “unique skill set.” Thus far, through both the preseason and Week 1, Porter has played 16 snaps in the slot, allowing four catches on four targets for 45 yards (14 yards after the catch) and one touchdown. While the sample size is — admittedly — too small to draw any conclusions, these numbers do show that Porter is continuing a pattern of poor play as a nickel corner.
The last time Porter saw significant action in the slot was in 2011 as a member of the New Orleans Saints. There, he played 216 snaps in the slot, allowing 24 receptions on 37 targets for 259 yards (168 YAC) and two touchdowns. In simpler terms, opposing quarterbacks had a rating of 92.1 when throwing at Porter in the slot.
Fortunately, the Raiders do have a member of the secondary who has extensive experience at nickel cornerback. Since 2008, Charles Woodson has played 1,248 snaps in the slot. When throwing at Woodson, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 52.1% of passes for for 1,018 yards and four touchdowns. What’s more, Woodson collected 12 of his 26 total interceptions over that time while playing in the slot. That’s not too shabby.
Aside from Woodson, the Raiders do have some other options, including Mike Jenkins and Phillip Adams, who do have had some experience as a nickel corner. And, of course, they can always go with the unproved likes D.J. Hayden, Chimdi Chekwa, Tawian Jones or even Chance Casey. I’ve provided the stats of all the players who have accrued them in the regular season below. The stats were provided to me by ProFootball Focus.