ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -Oakland Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington says the smart thing for the Detroit Lions and quarterback Jon Kitna to do in Sunday's opener would be throwing the ball in his direction.
In Washington's opinion, the Lions really have no other option.
``Just think about it. You're the quarterback, there's a corner getting at least one pick about every other game, you're going to go at the other dude, right?'' Washington said Thursday. ``You have to be up for the task. At some point, it's a one-on one-competition and you have to win your competition.''
Washington was referring to teammate Nnamdi Asomugha, who emerged last season as one of the top cornerbacks in the AFC after recording a career-high eight interceptions while being picked as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.
A first-round pick in 2003, Asomugha was the cornerstone of Oakland's secondary which finished with the NFL's top-ranked pass defense last year and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal 2-14 season.
Both he and Washington should be tested plenty by Kitna and the Lions. Detroit has used its first-round picks on wide receivers in four of the last five drafts, including in April when the Lions snagged Calvin Johnson with the No. 2 overall pick.
The Raiders, who drafted immediately ahead of Detroit, could have had Johnson but opted instead to take quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the first overall selection. Russell has yet to sign a contract and remains a holdout while Johnson is set to make his NFL debut against Oakland, which owned the league's No. 1-ranked pass defense in 2006.
Much of that was due to Asomugha, who didn't have a single career interception until last season. Along with the eight interceptions - the most by a Raiders cornerback since Lester Hayes had 13 in 1980 - Asomugha also had 19 passes defended and 50 tackles, all while playing almost exclusively in man-to-man coverage.
``I've told people since the end of last season, Nnamdi is the best corner in the game,'' Washington said. ``There's no ifs, ands or buts. I see the guy every day in practice and I watch him in games. He's the best.''
Which is why Washington anticipates Detroit and its fleet of receivers - Johnson, Roy Williams and Mike Furrey - to gear the offensive plans toward him. After all, he has just four career interceptions and routinely became the focus for opponents late last season while Asomugha's stock was soaring.
``Me, I don't care,'' Washington said. ``Come on, hopefully this year I'll get eight, nine picks. Hey, the more they throw at me, that's the more opportunities. You'll never hear me complaining about opportunities to get interceptions.
``Everybody knows Mike Martz prides himself on his offense so I'm thinking he's going to come out and go right at us. So us as a team, we have to slow that offense done. Us corners, we already know we're in for a tall task. They got their No. 1 pick, Calvin Johnson, and they're going to use that new toy they got. It's just how they're going to use them. We think we know a couple things they're going to do with him so it's going to be interesting come Sunday.''
Part of Asomugha's success last year was a result of his dedicated work ethic. He regularly stays after practice for up to 30 minutes, often working alone on refining his coverage skills and fine-tuning his techniques.
Oakland coach Lane Kiffin said the Raiders need that kind of effort from Washington.
``It's extremely important, especially within the system we play, because we put a lot on our corners,'' Kiffin said. ``We don't help them very much in our defensive system because we trust them so much and they're such good players. It's going to be no secret teams are going to throw (Washington's) way. He really needs to play well for us to continue to improve on defense.''
Notes: Oakland CB Duane Starks (groin) is listed as questionable ... Sunday's game has been declared a sellout and will be televised locally in the Bay Area. The Raiders had six sellouts in 2006.

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