Norton Jr: Raiders designed plan to increase Smith's interception total

Norton Jr: Raiders designed plan to increase Smith's interception total

ALAMEDA – Sean Smith has two interceptions already this season. His next will mark a career high.

That seems crazy for such an adept cover man, but it’s a verified low interception count that might be rising now.

Smith had 10 interceptions in seven seasons entering his first as a Raider, never more than two in a campaign. It’s something his new coaches sought to change with a personalized plan designed to insure Smith gets more picks.

He has two since signing a four-year, $38.5 million contract with the Raiders, and coaches believe he’s primed for several more this year after letting too many past opportunities slips through his hands.

“Early on, we knew he had good instincts and good knowledge, but he would always drop the ball,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “The ball would come to him and he’d drop it. We put him on a JUGS machine and threw the ball to him often and talked to him about how to catch.

“We set up certain drills for him, and we really individualized his drills to make him aware of what his weaknesses are. He really listened and it’s shown in his ability to get his hands on the ball.”

Smith has two interceptions that count, and picked off a two-point conversion in Baltimore. He let a few slip through his hands this preseason, proving his coaches’ point that he needed to improve in that area.

Last week’s pick against San Diego proves he’s made strides. Smith said he identified Travis Benjamin’s route early and anticipated Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers would favor a one-on-one matchup and go deep.

Smith made Benjamin seem open and quickly closed in after the ball was thrown. He undercut the route, made a leaping interception and returned it 27 yards.

It was a highlight in a solid three-game stretch. Smith has two interceptions and three passes defensed in that span, where passer ratings are exceptionally low when targeting his man. Quarterbacks have completed 8-of-19 passes for no touchdowns and the aforementioned pair of picks against Smith.

That’s a stark improvement over the first two games, when he allowed a touchdown and got benched at New Orleans and allowed two scores against Atlanta.

“Sean is a competitor, and is really prideful about his work,” Norton said. “You can’t get to this level without caring about what you do. He is new to all of us, and he wanted us to know that wasn’t him. He wanted to really show that he’s a really good football player. He is a really good player, and it comes down to consistency and working hard.”

Smith can extend this quality stretch against his former team when the Raiders host Kansas City on Sunday.

Why Drew Rosenhaus hopes Antonio Brown-Raiders trade sets precedent

Why Drew Rosenhaus hopes Antonio Brown-Raiders trade sets precedent

Antonio Brown's agent hopes his client is a trendsetter. 

Despite Brown having three years left on his contract deal and the trade necessitating a massive amount of dead money on their books, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded Brown to the Raiders for just a third- and fifth-round pick. Drew Rosenhaus thinks the deal could set a precedent for players under contract who are unhappy in their current situation. 

“What I hope it does is maybe bring some more balance," Rosenhaus told NBC Sports' Peter King in his Football Morning in America column. "There aren’t many players like Antonio Brown but perhaps—and I’m not suggesting that everybody go out and try to renegotiate their deal or ask for a trade—but I hope it gives players more leverage throughout the league.

"I hope it gives agents more confidence that they can affect something in a way that can make a positive change for their clients. Maybe this is a deal that’s bigger than just one particular contract.”

As Rosenhaus himself notes, Brown is a unique case. He is one of the very best players at his position, catching at least 100 passes for at least 1,200 yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of the past six seasons. Brown made the Pro Bowl in each of those years, and was first-team All-Pro every season from 2014 to 2017. 

Furthermore, his relationship with the Steelers was especially strained. Beginning with his Facebook Live stream from inside the Pittsburgh locker room in 2017 and culminating with his benching in Week 17 last season, it became clear that Brown's relationship with the Steelers was no longer tenable. A player without Brown's pedigree likely wouldn't have had the same leash before the Steelers ultimately decided to part ways. 

[RELATED: Brown takes jab at Bills for false rumors]

Still, Brown's trade definitely represents a departure from business as usual in the NFL. This is an owner-driven and owner-dominated league, where player contracts are not guaranteed and the average career lasts about three years. The Brown saga, frankly, was far more NBA-like. 

If football players begin to have more power like their basketball peers, Brown's trade to the Raiders would mark a clear turning point. 

Rashaan Melvin says he cheated Raiders fans during season with the team


Rashaan Melvin says he cheated Raiders fans during season with the team

Rashaan Melvin said his goodbyes to the Raiders after the Lions announced a deal that would bring the cornerback to the team.

But Melvin's farewell to the Silver and Black was a bit of a sad one. Melvin said he felt as though he cheated the fans:

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Im thankful for every opportunity God has placed in my life. We all must go through some things to get to what is actually meant for us. I greatly appreciate the Oakland organization for giving me the opportunity to further my career this past season. I respect the raiders organization, I respect the tradition, and I respect the die hard fans that has and will forever believe in raider nation. I feel like I cheated the fans, and organization, and a long list of players that came before me that made the organization what it is. It was always a life time dream of mine to wear the silver and black. It really hurt me that I wasn’t able to be myself, and play the style of play that I know I was capable of playing. To all my guys in that locker room I appreciate you guys for making the year special through everything. I cherish the relationships that were created on and off the field. I respect you guys, and I wish you boy’s the best!! Y’all ball out for the City of Oakland 1 more time or for however long y’all there! Respect!! #22 #raidernation ✊🏾✊🏾

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This, of course, appeared to be more of him not feeling as though he played to his potential. Playing for the Raiders had been a dream of his.

Melvin only started in seven games last season which could be partly why he's feeling the way he's feeling. 

"To all my guys in the locker room, I appreciate you guys for making the year special through everything."