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ALAMEDA – Keith McGill’s rookie season hasn’t gone exactly as planned. He missed more than a month with a groin injury, and rarely played defense when he was healthy.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound cornerback out of Utah was known as a developmental prospect in need of seasoning, an unwelcome fact considering how much the rest of the Raiders rookie class was contributing.
First-round linebacker Khalil Mack, second-round quarterback Derek Carr, third-round guard Gabe Jackson and fourth-round defensive tackle Justin Ellis are all starters. McGill, taken nine picks after Ellis, played just 18 defensive snaps heading into Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills.
“I was just trying to keep my head on straight, watch the guys on the field, and try to keep that tight chemistry in the secondary room,” McGill said. “I was just waiting for my time to step up.”
It took a few unwelcome injuries, but McGill finally got his chance to play in nickel and dime packages. He took full advantage of this opportunity, allowing one 18-yard reception in three targets, spread over 50 defensive snaps.
“When you put a young guy in a game like that, when they don’t get the reps and they don’t see the pictures in-game, you’re wondering how they are mentally,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “It tells you that they’re paying attention in the meetings, it tells you that their coaches are doing a good job with them that way, but I was impressed with what Keith did that way.”
McGill was happy with his coverage, yet frustrated over a missed tackle. He has to be happy with a good first in-game impression. He should get another chance to perform on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers are on injured reserve, and it seems likely that Chimdi Chekwa won’t play with a hamstring strain. That leaves McGill to play during nickel and dime packages that should be heavily featured against quarterback Peyton Manning.
These final games should provide a tough test and, possibly, a solid showcase that thrusts McGill into a bigger role next season.
“It’s always going to be nice to get game reps and you just have to build off of whatever kind of foundation you have,” McGill said. “Mine is kind of late in the season but, these last two games, they’re going to be important and I just have to go in there and try to do my job as best as possible.”