Breon Borders catching attention of Derek Carr, Raiders

NAPA, Calif. -- Perhaps the player to benefit most from high-priced veteran cornerback Sean Smith being relegated to the Oakland Raiders' second-team defense?

Try undrafted rookie Breon Borders.

While it is true that TJ Carrie has taken over Smith's starting reps at right cornerback, opposite David Amerson, it is Borders who is now running with the first-team nickel defense in the slot.

Not a bad look for a undrafted free agent trying to make a 53-man roster.

"That's 100 percent my focus: make the team and make the team better," Broders said following training-camp practice Saturday. “That's my only focus on this team."

The 6-foot, 189-pound Borders, who had 12 interceptions in 46 games over four seasons at Duke, has already made an impression on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

"You know what, every time I turn the film on, it's like he makes a play," Carr said. "I think that that's how those guys catch your eye. When you're an undrafted guy, it's hard because ... you're not going to have the first- or second-team reps all the time, obviously."

Except, now Borders is in the nickel defense.

"All that you can see is, 'Man, who's 31?' kind of a thing," Carr added. "And then throughout the offseason and here at camp, he's really proven himself. The more guys that we can have like that that make plays, I'm all for it."

In fact, Borders said Carr has relayed tendencies he has picked up on the cornerback so he Borders doesn't repeat them on the field.

Or at least so he is not so susceptible.

"That's very beneficial in everyone's development," Borders said. "To have an elite quarterback that you get to go against every day, it's very beneficial in every one and every way."

Beside Carr coaching him up, Borders said he has had Smith, Amerson, Carrie and Antonio Hamilton in his ear since he arrived, offering advice.

Yes, even in camp.

"It's all friendly competition," Borders said. "There's no backdooring each other. We're all trying to help each other be better."

If and when Smith, who signed a four-year, $38 million contract with Oakland last year, regains his starting gig, pushing Carrie into the slot over Borders, the rookie's best shot at making the Raiders might come on special teams.

Remember, first-round draft pick Gareon Conley has yet to practice as he deals with shin splints. And when Conley gets going, that could push Borders further out of the cornerback rotation.

"As an undrafted free agent," Borders said, "you've got to make sure you get to know the special-teams coach. And you go 100 percent every single rep on special teams, because that's how you get noticed."

Borders, though, has already made a mark.