ALAMEDA -- Daryl Worley made the best play of his career nearly a month ago now. He covered Detroit receiver Kenny Golladay like a fire blanket, establishing a perfect position heading toward the end zone. He was able to turn around, see the ball thrown and track it before reaching up to make a spectacular one-handed interception.
That was a huge play in a Week 9 victory Worley will never forget. His real badge of honor doesn’t come from that. Worley takes pride in his reputation as someone teammates don’t have to worry about. He has been stable and steady in the three games since, allowing four receptions for 56 yards, with three passes defensed on 11 targets in that span.
That has been vital in recent weeks, during a period of upheaval in the secondary. Karl Joseph was lost for the season and Lamarcus Joyner has missed two games with a hamstring -- he’s expected back Sunday against Kansas City -- so Worley thought it important to be a rock on one side of the field.
“Being a stabilizing force is important at times like this,” Worley said. “That’s something I spoke with the coaches about back in OTAs. Coach Gruden challenged me to step and play the best football of my career. I feel like I have been doing that this season. Being my best each and every game day makes those around me better. Knowing that they can rely on me to make plays, I know that everyone else responds.”
Worley must continue his trend of solid coverage and make up for his worst game of the season. He allowed four receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown on seven targets in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City, a when blown coverages and deep shots blew the game wide open.
Chiefs will test this secondary regularly, especially with Joyner coming off injury, Trayvon Mullen just a rookie and safety D.J. Swearinger new to this defense. The Chiefs have the speed to spare, so Raiders coverage must be better overall to keep up with the high-flying Chiefs attack.
That means Worley must be as reliable as he has recently.
“He’s a smart corner, and obviously athletic,” safety Erik Harris said. “He has the intelligence of a safety in how he sees the game from his position and obviously has the athleticism to play cornerback. You don’t have to have to worry about him. You just make sure he gets the call and then let him do his thing and play around him. You just let him make plays and get into the zone. That’s biggest thing about Daryl. He is always where he’s supposed to be.”
The Raiders planned to move Worley inside, into more of a hybrid safety role midway through this season -- they tried that experiment in Week 2 in an attempt to handle Travis Kelce -- but have largely abandoned that objective without the cornerback depth required to move him inside more often.
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He will be ready for anything against the Chiefs drawing tough assignments dealing with Chiefs speed quite often by himself. Worley must be steady and avoid major mistakes, but the Raiders might need some Lions-type interception magic to pull this one out.
“He’s done a good job. He’s really battled,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “The guy can play multiple positions for us. He does whatever you ask of him. Daryl is one of the best note takers in our room. He’s very prepared every week. He’s a guy that our young players look after. He’s a guy that can play all the spots.”