Projected Starters: D.J. Hayden, Tarell Brown, Charles Woodson, Tyvon Branch
Key Reserves: Carlos Rogers, Chimdi Cheka, Usama Young
No position group on the Oakland roster is as worrisome as the secondary. It was the weakest unit on the team last season, and it's the unit that's seen the least improvement this offseason.
After missing much of last year's offseason, D.J. Hayden was expected to make major improvements this year. But he's once again injured, and the news only seems to be getting worse. The San Jose Mercury News' Jerry McDonald reported that the Raiders have officially placed Hayden on the PUP list.
Per CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair, Hayden's foot injury was a lot worse than initially reported. Hayden actually had foot surgery back in June, and he's now about halfway through an expected four-to-eight-week recovery period, meaning he'll likely miss all of training camp.
This creates a major problem at cornerback as Hayden's absence will force the coaching staff to reshuffle the entire unit, and Bair notes that the team is now scrambling for answers.
Carlos Rogers could now be moved from slot corner to outside corner. This means that someone will have to fill in at slot, possibly rookie T.J. Carrie. Chimdi Chekwa is now looking to get more reps than expected, along with rookie Keith McGill, which could leave Rogers in the slot, while Chekwa and McGill try to man Hayden's position.
Basically, the Raiders are going to throw every idea at the wall and hope one of them sticks.
At safety, Oakland is set with Charles Woodson and Tyvon Branch, but there are also major concerns here. Woodson finished 2013 with 97 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, two sacks and an interception. Those are impressive stats, but he'll be 38 in October, and there's no guarantee that he can play another season at the same level.
Branch has been one of the defense's few bright spots since being drafted by the Raiders in 2008, but he is coming off a leg injury that ended his 2013 season after only two games. Bair reports that Branch has fully recovered, but that won't be certain until he can prove it in live action.
The Raiders made major changes all over the roster, but they also have something else at those positions: a plan. That's not something that can be said about the Raiders secondary at this point.
For now, Oakland just seems to be hoping that the problems at cornerback somehow work themselves out, that Branch is 100 percent and that Woodson has made another trip to the fountain of youth. Wishful thinking doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.
Unless someone unexpectedly steps up, this unit will once again struggle in 2014.