The Oakland Raiders drafted Asomugha with one of their two first round draft choices in 2003 with the idea that he would become a starter. Asomugha, who has started eight games in his first two seasons, has shown occasional promise but nothing overwhelming so far.
The Raiders drafted cornerbacks Fabian Washington (first round, Nebraska) and Stanford Routt (second round, Houston) with their first two picks in last April's draft. Washington figures to give Asomugha his stiffest challenge for the job. While the Raiders are suggesting that Washington will get every chance to unseat the third-year veteran, the job is Asomugha's to win – marking the first training camp he has been in such a position.
"The sense of calmness is not there," Asomugha said. "You never want to be too calm and too content with your position. The confidence is something I have to keep harping on because when you're put in that position it shows that the coaches have trust in you."
The Raiders thought enough of Washington to trade their way back into the first round. Oakland shipped tight end Doug Jolley to the New York Jets for the 26th overall pick in the draft and later swapped picks with the Seattle Seahawks, who owned the No. 23 pick.
"The biggest thing is that young guys have to learn the system," Raiders head coach Norv Turner said. "Then once they get comfortable, they have to apply it to all of the different looks they get. Nnamdi has had a great offseason. I think the guy is going to be an outstanding player."
Washington opted to leave school after his junior year to help his family financially and was a projected second or third round draft choice before having an exceptional combine. Washington ran a 4.29 time in the 40-yard dash and had a 41-inch vertical leap. Washington became a fixture in Nebraska's secondary. He took his lumps as a true freshman before having a solid season as a sophomore.
Washington achieved all-Big 12 Conference second-team honors as a junior when he recorded 41 tackles and three interceptions. Washington is fourth on Nebraska's interceptions list with 11. Some people, however, believe that Washington could have used another year in school.
Washington's biggest asset is his athleticism, instincts and work ethic but his downside is considered his size (5-10, 188) and run support ability. Washington played his junior year for former Raiders head coach Bill Callahan, now the Nebraska head coach. Oakland dismissed Callahan after the 2003 season.
"I'm thinking right now Nnamdi is the guy and they're just bringing me along but they brought me in to compete and that's what I'm going to do," Washington said.
Even though Washington might be perceived as a threat to Asomugha, it has stopped the latter from taking Washington under his wing to help him learn.
"Off the field, I'm a good person and on the field I'm a good person," Asomugha said. "I'm not into staying away from people because they're pushing me for my job. I'm confident enough in the things that I do to help others out. It's a team effort that'll help us get to where we need to be. I don't shy away from helping out rookies at all."
It is somewhat interesting that Washington has sought Asomugha for more help than nine-year veteran Charles Woodson, who is a four-time Pro Bowler but for all his talent is not perceived as the greatest example to younger players."I haven't asked Charles too many questions but I'm also asking Nnamdi about little things," Washington said. "He helps me a lot."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org