ALAMEDA -– The Raiders run defense has struggled some over the first two preseason games, especially against top backs.
They have two more heavy hitters coming in Saturday against Tennessee, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry as the Titans’ primary rushers. Murray has a track record of success and Henry is a physical presence, making them a good test for what should be a staple of the Raiders defense.
The Titans also feature a quarterback in Marcus Mariota with fast feet, another element that will try a defense at times during the regular season.
“Going into the preseason, you really want to get tested,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “You have a thought about where your strengths are, but when you play you want to see where your true strengths are. We’ll see how good we are with our run fits, our energy and our effort, and our ability to play against a mobile quarterback.”
The Raiders got a taste of that last week at Green Bay, when mobile quarterback Brett Hundley and physical running back Eddie Lacy controlled that game’s opening drive. The first-unit defense responded well after that, with four three-and-outs over its remaining five drives.
The Titans offer another opportunity to start fast and continue to make progress heading toward the regular season.
“It’s important for us to go up against teams that have been pretty good and match up to see where we stand,” Norton Jr. said. “…It’s important that we learned we have to come out ready to play. …It’s preseason. Guys are still getting better and there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Cooper returns, Nelson still doing side work: Raiders receiver Amari Cooper was back at practice Wednesday, a day after sitting one early in the week preparing for Saturday’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
Free safety Reggie Nelson was limited to side work for a second straight session, continuing a light week for the 33-year old defensive back. He was also limited during Saturday’s practice.
The Raiders don’t have to update or declare injuries during the preseason.
Rookie running back Jalen Richard returned to work on Tuesday, and returned again Wednesday at an unknown capacity. The media can now only watch early portions of practice.
Roberts being pushed?: Receiver Seth Roberts seems to have a stranglehold on the primary slot receiver spot, though head coach Jack Del Rio says there might be competition from lower ranks.
“I would say Seth has been okay,” Del Rio said. “Yeah, he’s been okay. He made a really nice catch last week in practice. I think he’s been working at it. I think he’s starting to feel pushed a little bit, which is what we’d like to have. Yeah, he’s been a good player for us.”
Andre Holmes is the only receiver on the roster outside Cooper and Michael Crabtree with NFL experience. Johnny Holton leads a pack of undrafted wideouts believed to be vying for the No. 5 receiver spot.