The Oakland Raiders’ defense is still a bit of a work in progress, there’s no denying that. The good news is that they seem to have found some gems at a few key positions, with cornerback and linebacker being keys.
While the Raiders still allow the most yards per game (430.4) and rank No. 22 in points per game (25.6), their 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars is a defensive performance to build on. Two key factors in that victory for the Raiders came in part thanks to two former Redskins, cornerback David Amerson and linebacker Perry Riley.
While Amerson was technically brought to town back in 2015, he played in 14 games last season and was impressive, tallying 58 combined tackles, 25 passes defensed and four interceptions. It shouldn’t be all that surprising that he’s wound up being a leader in the team’s secondary, and just had a superb Week 7 performance.
Then there was the real surprise in linebacker Riley, who was signed just weeks ago. Multiple injuries on the Raiders roster resulted in the team choosing to sign the 28-year-old, and after three games it seems that he’s really becoming a strong asset for this unit. According to Pro Football Focus, Riley and Amerson actually received the two highest grades on the Raiders roster from the win, which really isn’t all that shocking.
Top defensive grades:
LB Perry Riley, 85.4
CB David Amerson, 84.3
LB Perry Riley, CB David Amerson shine in win
LB Perry Riley recorded one QB hurry, one run stop, and an 80.5 coverage grade in a well-rounded performance. CB David Amerson continued his ball-hawking ways, intercepting a pass and batting down another; he only gave up three catches on four targets for 31 yards. Edge defender Khalil Mack had one sack and three hurries on 50 pass-rushing snaps.
There’s no easy way to explain what both Amerson and Riley have meant to the Raiders. It’s obvious the team saw the value of Amerson’s play during this offseason, as they signed him to a four-year, $38 million deal. While that seems like a lot, for a player with the upside and potential to create turnovers like Amerson does, it’s a fair value.
Amerson was somewhat of an overlooked man with the Redskins in their secondary, even though they spent a second-round draft pick on him back in 2013. Coming out of NC State, Amerson totaled an incredible 13 interceptions in 2011, while hauling in five in 2012. The upside has always been there, and now it’s transitioning in a big way to the NFL level.
As for Riley, it’s safe to say that not many saw this resurgence coming. After missing nine games over his final two seasons with the Redskins, he was sitting as a free agent and waiting for a call. A player who once totaled 115 or more combined tackles in back-to-back seasons wasn’t racking up the offers until the Raiders called. Now, he seems to have picked up the team’s defense and is beginning to turn the corner.
If Amerson and Riley are able to continue this level of production, it could mean big things for a defense that has major upside.