Chimdi Chekwa grew up in Louisiana following the career path of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning from high school to the NFL. The way things are shaping up, the Oakland Raiders’ reserve cornerback will finally get to play against the potential future Hall-of-Famer when the two teams meet in Week 17.
Mike Jenkins was again limited in practice on Friday because of a sore hamstring and is questionable to play in Sunday’s game. Chekwa, a fourth-round pick in 2011, took the majority of reps in practice.
Additionally, the Raiders may also be without their other starting cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter was limited in practice with a hip flexor after not showing up on the injury report earlier this week.
That puts Oakland in the unenviable position of potentially having to face Manning and his quest for the single-season passing record without either of its starting cornerbacks.
“It’s going to be a challenge, obviously,” Chekwa said. “I mean, he’s a great quarterback who knows how to the put the ball where it needs to be. As a defensive back, you have to have good technique in position to try to make a play on the ball.”
Chekwa’s only other start in the NFL came during his rookie season. The opponent? New England and Tom Brady.
Facing Manning and his crew of receivers is just as daunting a task, if not more so. Manning needs 266 yards to break Brady’s single-season passing record. The Denver quarterback’s 51 touchdown passes are also an NFL record.
Manning will no doubt be licking his chops to chase the record against two mostly inexperienced cornerbacks like Chekwa and Phillip Adams, who will start if Porter can’t.
“He’s going to find the weakness in the defense,” Chekwa said. “We just have to make sure we execute the call, execute the defense and attack the football. I don’t think I’ve ever played against Peyton at all so not much experience at all. I’m just going to play based off my experience as a cornerback and just try to execute the defense.”
Expect the Raiders to target a cornerback or two in the offseason. First-round pick D.J. Hayden will be back. Beyond that, little is certain.
Jenkins and Porter are both under one-year contracts and will become free agents when the market opens.
An argument can be made to keep Porter, but Jenkins has struggled much of the season and has been prone to making foolish mistakes, like slapping the ball out of the hand of San Diego running back Ryan Mathews after the play was over when the two teams met in Week 16.
Even if they opt to keep both starters, the Raiders have to beef up their depth in the secondary. The team suffered a big letdown when strong safety Tyvon Branch went down with an ankle injury early in the season followed by a season-ending injury to backup Usama Young.
Chekwa could enhance his position on the club with a strong showing in the season finale. A good game against Manning would go a long way toward that.
“If you’re going to zero in on anybody, you’re going to zero in on Peyton Manning,” Chekwa said. “You know, try to affect the quarterback. That’s the only hope of making a play and getting the win.”
* All information and quotes used in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.