Sean Smith

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

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AP

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.”

Raiders surviving with skeleton crew at cornerback

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AP

Raiders surviving with skeleton crew at cornerback

BRADENTON, Fla. – Raiders are woefully thin at cornerback. Have been for some time.

David Amerson has been concussed, worked through a shoulder issue and will now miss a second straight game with a foot problem. First-rounder Gareon Conley has been shut down indefinitely, maybe for good. Demetrius McCray was signed for reinforcement, and even he’s down for the count.

None of those guys will play Sunday night in Miami.

That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to cover well. That’s it. There aren’t any career cornerbacks in reserve.

Obi Melifonwu will come off injured reserve Saturday and could play there in a pinch. Safety Keith McGill started his professional career at corner.

The secondary as a whole is unsettled, with impact strong safety Karl Joseph questionable with a groin injury that sidelined him in Buffalo.

That’s a difficult spot for a No. 26-ranked Raiders pass defense that has played eight games without an interception.

“I mean I think they’ve done a good job working,” head coach Jack Del Rio said after Friday’s practice at IMG Academy. “A lot of it is communication, working with each other and understanding the leveraging that you need to take on different guys and playing. I think the guys are doing a solid job of getting through that. We’d love to have arguably our two top guys there that we don’t have right now.”

Del Rio’s referring to Amerson and Conley. Amerson’s the No. 1 cornerback. Conley’s has the most talent.

Smith has fallen off this year, giving too many explosive plays. McDonald is new to the rotation, but generally in good position to flash ball skills.

Carrie has been the rock. He entered the spring as the team’s fourth cornerback, leap-frogged Smith in training camp and is now the most reliable cover man. He has given up a 69.6 completion percentage when targeted, but receivers are averaging just 9.3 yards per reception and precious few yards after the catch.

“I like the pressure, of having so many rely on you,” Carrie said. “I pride myself on being dependable, even in big moments. That’s why you play, to be there for your team. I know I have to be consistent, and I have to be physical and tough. I have to be a guy you can count on. That, as much as anything else, drives me every day.”

The Raiders secondary remains in a tough spot, light years from what they’d hoped after signing Amerson and Smith to big-money deals last offseason and drafting Conley and Melifonwu a few months back.

Depth has been key to sustaining decent play in the back, but Carrie, McDonald and Smith must be better. Solid coverage isn’t good enough on a 3-5 team that must go on a big run to save the season. They have to make big plays, create turnovers and spark the team with players previously down on the depth chart. Carr believes healthy corners are up to the task.

“We’re a close group, and we do everything possible to prep for game,” Carrie said. “We work hard and we’ve done a good job staying together despite so many injuries at the position. I think all of our DBs can cover well and make plays. We’re confident in whoever we put out there on the field.”

Snap count: Raiders paid Sean Smith to do nothing vs Chargers

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AP

Snap count: Raiders paid Sean Smith to do nothing vs Chargers

OAKLAND – In addition to a $4.25 million roster bonus and $250,000 workout bonus, Raiders cornerback Sean Smith makes a $5 million base salary this season. The salary was fully guaranteed when he signed a four-year, $38 million contract last offseason.

The base salary is paid in 17 installments, one for each week of the regular season. That means the Raiders paid Smith $294,117 to do nothing in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

He was active as an emergency option but wasn’t needed, and did not play a single snap on defense or special teams.

David Amerson and TJ Carrie started at cornerback, with Dexter McDonald entering in the sub package. Snaps are earned under head coach Jack Del Rio. Salary or draft status doesn’t enter into his decisions.

Smith has been a liability against speed receivers and the Raiders don’t shadow cornerbacks, meaning he was vulnerable to bad matchups on the outside.

Amerson and Carrie have been good, and McDonald has proven effective in recent weeks as a third cornerback. The Raiders are making do without first-round cornerback Gareon Conley, who remains out with a shin injury.

NFL Network reports that Conley has an important doctor’s appointment set for Tuesday, which could cause him to be shut down for an extended stretch.

The inside linebacker corps was down a few members Sunday, leaving undrafted rookies to man the interior. Fifth-round rookie Marquel Lee was out with an ankle injury and Cory James played but seven defensive snaps due to a knee injury.

Nicholas Morrow started at middle linebacker and played 62 snaps, while Xavier Woodson-Luster, a special teams player prior to Sunday, played on the weak side.

Those kids fared well under difficult circumstances. Morrow had five tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. He allowed three catches for 43 yards on four targets, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

Woodson-Luster had six tackles, and allowed an 11-yard catch on two targets.

OFFENSE

OFFENSIVE LINE: Kelechi Osemele 58, Gabe Jackson 58, Donald Penn 58, Rodney Hudson 58, Marshall Newhouse 57, Vadal Alexander 7

QUARTERBACKS: Derek Carr 58

RUNNING BACKS:Marshawn Lynch 30, Jalen Richard 17, DeAndre Washington 5

RECEIVERS: Amari Cooper 55, Michael Crabtree 49, Seth Roberts 42, Cordarrelle Patterson 17, Johnny Holton

TIGHT ENDS:Jared Cook 46, Lee Smith 13, Clive Walford 7

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE: Khalil Mack 55, Justin Ellis 44, Mario Edwards 42, Denico Autry 37, Treyvon Hester 34, Eddie Vanderdoes 21, James Cowser 7

LINEBACKERS: Nicholas Morrow 62, Bruce Irvin 58, Xavier Woodson-Luster 40, Shilique Calhoun 10, Cory James 7, Tyrell Adams 1

CORNERBACKS:TJ Carrie 64, David Amerson 64, Dexter McDonald 28

SAFETIES:Reggie Nelson 64, Karl Joseph 64, Keith McGill 12

SPECIAL TEAMS

Keith McGill 19, James Cowser 19, Tyrell Adams 19, Shilique Calhoun 15, Shalom Luani 15, Erik Harris 15, Johnny Holton 11, Cordarrelle Patterson 8, Jalen Richard 8, DeAndre Washington 8, Dexter McDonald 8, Lee Smith 7, Xavier Woodson-Luster 7, Jon Feliciano 7, Jon Condo 7, Marquette King 7, Darius McCray 7, Giorgio Tavhecchio 6, TJ Carrie 4, Nicholas Morrow 4, Khalil Mack 4, Denico Autry 4, Treyvon Hester 4, Eddie Vanderdoes 4, Kelechi Osemele 3, Gabe Jackson 3, Marshall Newhouse 3, Vadal Alexander 3, Clive Walford 3, Karl Joseph 3, Justin Ellis 3, Mario Edward 3

INACTIVES

QB Connor Cook, CB Gareon Conley, FB Jamize Olawale, LB Marquel Lee, OT Jylan Ware, OT David Sharpe, DL Jihad Ward

DID NOT PLAY

QB EJ Manuel, CB Sean Smith