Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix


Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix

NASHVILLE – Seth Roberts must really love Tennessee. Or country music. Or the Nissan Stadium turf. Or having a dozen-plus family members in the crowd.

There must be a reason why the Raiders slot receiver owns the Titans.

“It’s the matchups their defense has given us,” Roberts said. “When they provide certain looks, I’m able to capitalize.”

Oh. Well, that isn’t quite as fun. Roberts doesn’t care, as long as it’s effective.

Roberts has had two excellent games in Nashville, with a combined eight receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His scores decided both games. He had a game-winner late in 2015, and the decider last season.

Clutch moments might be due to more than attractive matchups in Tennessee. He creates those against everybody.

Roberts has made four game-winning catches in two seasons with the club. While everyone remembers Michael Crabtree’s two-point conversion and Jack Del Rio’s gamble, Roberts caught the touchdown pass to set that up. Amari Cooper was a supernova against Tampa Bay, but Roberts’ 41-yard overtimes catch and run beat the Buccaneers.

Consider it a good omen if Roberts scores in Sunday’s regular-season opener. Odds are the Raiders will win another clash with the Titans. The Silver and Black are 9-0 when Roberts scored a touchdown.

That stat is Roberts’ favorite. That’s why he’s driven to perform in big moments. He feels a certain devotion to the Raiders and his teammates. He wants to come through for them.

“Deep down, I want it. I want to own the moment,” Roberts said. “I want to show up for the guys around me. They’ve always had my back. I have to have their theirs.”

Roberts remains thankful for the opportunity to shine. It wasn’t expected of an unheralded kid from Moultrie, Ga. who spent time at Pearl Rivers Community College and West Alabama before going undrafted. He spent camp with the Raiders and then got cut. He re-signed with the practice squad, impressed there, and became the team’s slot receiver. The rest you’ve seen on Sundays.

Roberts turned those efforts into a three-year, $12 million contract extension with $6.45 million guaranteed. The deal came together quickly, after summer contact between Roberts’ reps and the Raiders proved desire to extend was mutual. It was a proud moment for a player without pedigree, who toiled and grinded and never gave up.

“I’ve always had to work for things my whole life,” Roberts said. “Nothing was ever given to me. It feels even better to work and earn something like this.”

Roberts wants to repay the Raiders with clutch moments and steady play. Roberts’ clutch moments have come in droves. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card. He played through a double hernia last year and never missed a practice and had a newborn in season, but refused to use that as an excuse.

He spent the offseason getting healthy, while working on one major flaw in his game.

“The drops. That’s the main thing,” Roberts said. “It’s about concentration on what you’re doing and, at the same time, not thinking about it too much. You can’t have that. You can’t be thinking, “Am I going to drop the ball?’ You can’t worry about that. I think I went through that some last year. But, honestly, I’m over it. I’m confident in everything I do now.”

Fans will like hearing that, especially after Roberts dropped 10 passes last year and six the year before. It’s a new issue for Roberts, one he believes is corrected.

“Pluck and tuck. It sounds so easy,” Roberts said. “I never used to drop the ball, so it was a strange experience going through that. That’s not me.”

Inactives: Raiders forced to face Brady with just three healthy cornerbacks


Inactives: Raiders forced to face Brady with just three healthy cornerbacks

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders can’t get healthy at cornerback, David Amerson in particular. The Silver and Black’s best cover man will miss a third straight game on Sunday with a foot injury that can’t get right, meaning the Raiders will face New England with just three healthy cornerbacks.

TJ Carrie, Sean Smith and Dexter McDonald will take most of the snaps, with safeties Karl Joseph, Obi Melifonwu and Shalom Luani able to assist in the slot should go with four or more receivers.

The Raiders chose not to sign a cornerback off the street despite Amerson’s ailments and Gareon Conley being moved to injured reserve.

They reinstated Darius Latham and then made him a healthy scratch due to their abundance at defensive tackle.

The Raiders are down an offensive lineman, with right tackle Marshal Newhouse unable to play with hip and quadriceps injuries. Vadal Alexander will start in his place.

In addition, defensive tackle Jihad Ward, quarterback Connor Cook, edge rusher Shilique Calhoun and offensive tackle Jylan Ware are also inactive.

The Patriots will play without starting center David Andrews and right tackle Marcus Cannon. Receiver Chris Hogan is also out with injury.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”