Raiders cornerback Sean Smith allowed three receptions on five targets Sunday against New Orleans, every one a costly big play.
He gave up a 25-yard catch to Saints rookie Michael Thomas. He gave up a 49-yard catch to Willie Snead and a 98-yard touchdown strike to Brandin Cooks that was his last play of the day.
Head coach Jack Del Rio put Smith on the bench and left him there, moving slot corner DJ Hayden outside and added TJ Carrie in Hayden’s spot. It was an interesting decision to remove a player given a contract worth up to $40 million to be the team’s shutdown cornerback.
“I thought that he had a rough day, so we took him out,” Del Rio said. “He’ll be back. He’s going to play well for us, but he didn’t play well today.”
Smith should be back in the starting lineup next week, and is expected to be a fixture there and on this defense despite a rough start to the season. Captains Khalil Mack and Derek Carr sought Smith out after the game to offer encouraging words.
“We’ve all been there before,” Carr said. “It’s just important he knows how much he means to this team and how much we’re going to need him.”
That’s why he only played 43 defensive snaps in this game. His total was lower than expected, while Keith McGill played 97 percent of the defensive snaps at strong safety. He was a surprise starter, after the team’s unofficial depth chart put Nate Allen on top of that position group above first-round rookie Karl Joseph.
While Cory James had taken some of Ben Heeney’s first-unit work late in the preseason, that wasn’t the case in this game. Heeney played every down and generally looked good doing it. He had five tackles, but missed two, from the middle linebacker spot.
Joseph did not play a defensive snap. Seth Roberts played 60 snaps, meaning the Raiders had a third receiver on 82 percent of their offensive snaps.
Here’s a complete snap count from Sunday’s 35-34 victory over the Saints at the Superdome.
73 – OL Donald Penn, OL Gabe Jackson, OL Kelechi Osemele, OL Rodney Hudson, QB Derek Carr
72 – WR Amari Cooper
68 – WR Michael Crabtree
60 – WR Seth Roberts
45 – RB Latavius Murray
41 – TE Lee Smith
37 – TE Clive Walford
25 – OL Matt McCants
24 – OL Menelik Watson, Jon Feliciano
12 – FB Jamize Olawale
10 – Jalen Richard
8 – RB DeAndre Washington
6 – Taiwan Jones
4 – WR Andre Holmes
2 – WR Johnny Holton
69 – FS Reggie Nelson, LB Ben Heeney, LB Malcolm Smith
67 – SS Keith McGill
66 – DE Khalil Mack, Cb David Amerson
60 – LB Bruce Irvin
50 – CB DJ Hayden
47 – DL Jihad Ward
46 – DE Denico Autry
43 – CB Sean Smith
25 – Darius Latham
20 – CB TJ Carrie
17 – DL Justin Ellis
15 – DL Dan Williams
12 – DL Stacy McGee
11 – LB Shilique Calhoun
5 – S Nate Allen
1 – Cory James
28 – Daren Bates, Nate Allen
20 – Brynden Trawick, Cory James, Shilique Calhoun, Andre Holmes, Jamize Olawale
12 – Keith McGill
10—Sebastian Janikowski , DJ Hayden, Clive Walford, Matt McCants
9 – Karl Joseph, TJ Carrie
8 – Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Denico Autry, David Amerson, Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Jalen RIchard
7 – Marquette King, Jon Condo, Darius Latham, Johnny Holton
4 – Donald Penn
3 – Jon Feliciano, Kelechi Osemele
2 – Menelik Watson, Matt McCants
1 – Jihad Ward, Rodney Hudson
NOTE: Snap counts taken from official game book