American Football

Raiders cornerbacks: Brandon Facyson, the elder statesman

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Cornerback Brandon Facyson is no stranger to the Las Vegas Raiders as he played for the team during the 2021 season. After a one-year stint in Indianapolis, Facyson is back in Silver & Black and is the oldest and most experienced corner on the roster. | Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran returns to Silver & Black providing much-needed size at the position

At 28 years old, Brandon Facyson finds himself the oldest cornerback in the Las Vegas Raiders secondary. In fact, come the Silver & Black’s season opener at the Denver Broncos, Facyson will be 29 as the September 10 tilt is two days after his birthday.

But age isn’t the only thing separating the Virginia Tech product from the rest of the Raiders cornerbacks. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds, Facyson gives Las Vegas much-needed size at the position. That length and physicality was something he brought plenty of during his first stint as a Raider back in 2021.

Facyson started nine games that season, playing in 12 total contests proving opportunistic and stingy. Coming over as a familiar free agent add in October of 2021 to play in then-defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme, Facyson allowed a 55.6 completion percentage (81 targets, 45 completions, for 552 yards and six touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks sported a 94.8 rating throwing his way as Facyson played a career-high 601 snaps.

Facyson and the Raiders are banking on the reunion going better than the corner’s lone season with the Indianapolis Colts, a team that had Bradley running its defense. Benched and ineffective as a Colt, Facyson and the Silver & Black are seeking a 2023 rebound.

“It was surreal. It was a different type of feeling. My agent called me and he said those exact words and my face lit up,” on the Raiders wanting him back via free agency this offseason. “I had a great time here when I was here in ‘21 and just looking forward to make new memories with these guys this year in ‘23 and just keep it pushing.”

Facyson, a five-year veteran, is among a dozen cornerbacks currently on the Raiders’ 90-man roster. Incumbents Nate Hobbs, Amik Robertson, Tyler Hall and Sam Webb are joined by free agent adds Facyson, Duke Shelley, David Long Jr., 2023 NFL Draft pick Jakorian Bennett (fourth-round, 104th overall), and younger fringe types Jordan Perryman, Azizi Hearn, Bryce Cosby, and Ike Brown. That number will likely be halved come cutdown day to the regular season 53-man number, thus, expect competition to be heavy in the cornerback room. This early into the offseason through OTAs and minicamp, healthy doses of competition are apparent.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Hobbs (39) is one of the familiar faces for Brandon Facyson as he returns to the Las Vegas Raiders cornerback room.

“Man, the competition has been great. We’re really just trying to work on gelling together as a group, just getting better every day, pushing each other,” Facyson said. “Trying to figure out the ins and outs of everything, and I think it’s been pretty good so far.”

The cornerbacks pushing one another is imperative for a group that doesn’t have a clear-cut identity. The Las Vegas secondary needs to forge one and bringing out the best in one another is a solid way of doing that. Shelley, for example, brings with him an alpha mentality where he finds it insulting when passes are completed against him. Last season, Shelley was a very stingy cover man allowing only 45.7 percent of passes thrown his way for completions (46 targets, 21 completions) for 266 yards and zero touchdowns. Quarterbacks going Shelley’s way sported an abysmal 55.2 rating.

All that from an outside corner that stands 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds and was seen as nothing more than a slot/nickel defender in the NFL. Shelley’s attitude and performance the Raiders cornerbacks sorely need to exhibit. And with the 26-year-old battling for snaps, it’ll make the rest of the group that much better.

Training camp next month is where the true separation begins from camp fodder and the eventual 53-man roster. We’ll see then, when the pads come on, which players can continue to impress — namely at cornerback. Bennett is reportedly turning heads at camp as a rookie, but we’ll see if that trend continues in July. Especially for Facyson, who offers height and length no other corner among the dozen can match.

As the elder statesman of the group, he’s got the most years in the league under his belt and can impart valuable knowledge to his counterparts.

“Just trying to get better every single day, that’s really what it all comes down to, just trying to perfect the craft,” Facyson said about the takeaways from mandatory minicamp. “I know it’s a new scheme, but even with that, like I said the end goal is always the same — just trying to take every single day as a stepping stone and trying not to take a step back in those directions and just trying to lock in and make sure I’m coming to work focused every single day, no matter what’s going on around me or whatever the case may be.

“But the last few days of minicamp have been great, very talkative, we’re communicating great, and I feel like we’re gelling pretty well. So, looking forward to the upcoming portion of the season and we’ve got camp obviously, so that’ll just be another step for us to just gel even more and become one to be honest.”

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