OAKLAND – Perry Riley signed with the Raiders on Tuesday. He started at weakside linebacker just days later.
That isn’t much time to learn and play in a new defensive scheme, with new terminology and extensive responsibilities for its interior linebackers.
The veteran didn’t miss a beat. He led the Raiders with eight tackles and had a forced fumble in a 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Oakland Coliseum.
“The terminology was the biggest thing to getting the playbook down,” Riley said. “At the end of the day, it’s 11-on-11, you can only run a certain amount of coverages, they’re all pretty much the same everywhere, it’s just the terminology is different. Once I got that down, the rest came naturally.”
Malcolm Smith’s health forced Riley into action. The incumbent starter wasn’t ready to start after suffering a quadriceps injury a week earlier at Baltimore. He would’ve been available in a pinch, but Riley didn’t need relief. He fit right in.
Creating the game’s first turnover was a nice start. He allowed a reception to tight end Antonio Gates, but closed quickly and punched the ball free. Reggie Nelson recovered the first of four Raiders takeaways.
Riley got through a difficult week by staying in his playbook and relying on experience. Riley played six seasons in Washington, with 63 starts in 79 NFL games. That certainly helped him adjust on the fly and fared well in a tough spot.
His play also alleviated some stress playing without Malcolm Smith in the heart of this defense.
“He’s got fire,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You can just see the fire in him and his desire to soak up everything he could this week and be prepared to help us today. Malcolm [Smith] was dressed and available in an emergency, but really didn’t want to play him if we didn’t have to. That was the plan coming in. We held up fairly well throughout the day and so Perry stayed in there throughout.”