Erik Harris' two-interception night sparks Raiders' win vs. Chargers

Erik Harris' two-interception night sparks Raiders' win vs. Chargers

OAKLAND -- Anyone who knows Erik Harris' story, knows he fits perfectly with this resilient Raiders team. 

Undrafted out of Division II California University of Pennsylvania, Harris worked at a potato chip factory and for UPS while figuring out his football career. He eventually caught on in the CFL, playing three years with the Hamilton Tiger Cats before getting a shot in the NFL with the Saints in 2016. 

After playing mostly special teams for the Raiders in 2017, Harris was supposed to be a depth piece for head coach Jon Gruden's young secondary. But after rookie safety Johnathan Abram tore his rotator cuff in Week 1, Harris was thrust into duty. 

Like most of the Raiders defense, Harris has mixed good performances with bad ones so far this season. But Thursday night was one the safety will remember for the rest of his life. 

On Thursday night, the Raiders welcomed the rival Chargers to the Coliseum for the final time. At 4-5, the Chargers were looking to ride the momentum of their Week 9 win over the Packers to finally get back to .500 and resurrect their season after a 2-5 start. 

On the first possession of the game, the Chargers marched down the field but quarterback Philip Rivers sailed a ball over the head of Keenan Allen and right into the arm of Harris, who took it back 59 yards to the Chargers' 31-yard line. 

The Raiders offense settled for a field goal and the Chargers were right back on the move, getting to midfield on three plays. But on first-and-10 from their own 46, Rivers threw a pass intended for tight end Hunter Henry. The star tight end fell down and the ball fluttered right to Harris, who picked it off and took it back 56 yards for a touchdown, sending the Coliseum into a frenzy. 

"I was really just doing my job," Harris said of the pick-six after the Raiders' thrilling 26-24 win. "I was messing around with Phil a little bit, showing him one thing and then came back down. Just kind of read off him and was where I'm supposed to be. The first pick he put a little too much air into it and kind of gifted it into my lap. I like gifts." 

In a primetime game against a division rival, the 10 points the Raiders got off Harris' interception injected some swagger into a defense down to just seven healthy defensive linemen.

"It gave us a lot of momentum, a lot of energy," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said of Harris' picks. "But going against a quarterback like Philip you see, even down to the wire, they were still in it. So you know, at the end of the day, that can give you energy but you got to keep playing because you know he's going to keep going out there, keep slinging it the exact way he did." 

Sure enough, there was no quit in the Chargers who took a 24-20 lead with 4:02 to play. The Raiders' offense answered with a long drive that was capped by a Josh Jacobs 18-yard touchdown run to put them up 26-24 with a minute to go. 

The Raiders defense, which came up with a game-winning stop in Week 9 against the Lions, had to play the role of hero again. They did just that as safety Karl Joseph picked off Rivers with 20 seconds to go to seal the win. 

"It feels great to be in that moment," Harris said of the defense getting the game-winning stop. "People will say it's pressure, but it's really not pressure when you are prepared. Just to get off the field and hear the crowd go crazy when that ball hits the field, it's pretty surreal." 

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Despite the injuries, five-game road trip and early-season drama, the Raiders find themselves at 5-4 and firmly in the AFC playoff hunt, with a new hero emerging every week. 

In the final night game at the Coliseum, Harris picked off Rivers twice and had a third interception in the end zone nullified when defensive end Maxx Crosby was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone. He had 115 return yards and a touchdown that gave the Raiders some early-game juice to steady to the ship in the biggest game of their season. 

"It was pretty exciting and a special moment for this team, special moment for my teammates," Harris said. "It's a credit to them for just putting me in a position and trusting those guys." 

A team win it was, but Harris was the man of the hour. 

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

Why reported Darius Slay trade from Lions makes sense for Raiders

The Raiders were on the verge of the playoffs this past season, but their passing game took yet another step back. Besides the emergence of rookie Trayvon Mullen, the Silver and Black have plenty of question marks at cornerback as they move to Las Vegas. 

There could be help available, though. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that the Detroit Lions have talked to multiple teams regarding a trade for their Pro Bowl cornerback, Darius Slay. 

Between need, their slew of draft picks and available cap space, the Raiders could be a perfect fit for a trade with the Lions. Let's start with how Slay would fit in the defense. 

Mullen is expected to man one side of the defensive backfield at cornerback, while the other side is a bit of a mystery. Daryl Worley is a free agent this offseason, but Nevin Lawson, Nick Nelson, Keisean Nixon and Isaiah Johnson all are options. None are Slay, though. Not even close. 

Slay, 29, made his third straight Pro Bowl this last season. He also was a First Team All-Pro in 2017 when he led the NFL with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. Since 2014, Slay has recorded at least two interceptions and 13 passes defensed every season. 

Per advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus, Slay has been the fifth-best cornerback in the game since 2014. 

The Raiders also have the draft picks to get a deal done. They own two first-round picks -- Nos. 12 and 19 -- this April, as well as three in the third round, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. They have plenty of leverage to make a move. 

Las Vegas also lands right in the middle of current available salary-cap space going into next season. According to Spotrac, the Raiders have slightly over $51.5 million in salary-cap space. Slay, who has a $13.4 million cap hit in 2020, wants a new contract as he's set to hit free agency after this upcoming season. 

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He likely would cost more than a few extra pennies, but it's clear Slay still can be a solid corner in a division where everyone is chasing QB Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Raiders could target a cornerback early in the draft. That's not out of the question at all. If the Lions are taking calls on Slay like Schefter reported, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would be wise to listen. 

How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway


How ex-Raiders star Nnamdi Asomugha transitioned from NFL to Broadway

Nnamdi Asomugha finds himself under a new set of bright lights. The former Raiders star cornerback, who ended his 11-year NFL career with the 49ers, now finds himself on Broadway

"I started the decade at the Pro Bowl, and I ended the decade on Broadway," Asomugha said in a recent interview with CBS' Dana Jacobson, which aired Friday. "I was like, 'This was really surreal.' This is not a dream that I ever had. And now, this is so clearly what I should be doing." 

Asomugha, now 38 years old, first dabbled in the entertainment business while still playing in the NFL. Towards the end of his career, he started working as a part-time NFL analyst when Jacobson worked at ESPN. He also did a commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods in 2009, and the director gave him words of encouragement regarding his acting skills. 

The three-time Pro Bowler said he started thinking about his post-playing career long before he was done playing football. He saw early on just how quickly your career can end. 

"You better start thinking about that long before you finish your career," Asomugha said. "I mean, I started noticing really my first year in the NFL that you can go down with an injury, your career can be over. You can get cut within moments. And then what are you gonna do?" 

The Cal product soon turned his focus to acting and producing. He said he "was a rookie again" and took acting classes.

Asomugha now has a long list of credits when looking at his IMDB page. The former football star was the executive producer for Netflix's "Beasts of No Nation" in 2015, and he starred in Amazon's "Crown Heights" in 2017.

But it was the Broadway stage where Asomugha found his true calling. He felt the same kind of rush he did on the football field when he made his Broadway debut in the award-winning "A Soldier's Play" earlier in February.

"They announce you, everyone's cheering," Asomugha recalled. "I kind of ran on to the stage and began our work. And I remember at that moment just being like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be.' ... That's football, isn't it? It's live. You don't get a second take, you better get it right.

"I developed that muscle so much, I'm at my best when I'm in the fire."

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Asomugha finished his football career after playing three games for the 49ers in 2013. He then retired as a Raider in December of that same year. And though he has found his new calling, he admits he misses the game that first brought him so much joy.

"That was a great time," Asomugha said. "Football is definitely my first love. Now finding this world in entertainment through acting and producing -- I didn't think I would love something as much as I did, but I'm so grateful now that I do."