ALAMEDA – Cory James started eating into middle linebacker Ben Heeney’s first-unit practice snaps midway through the Raiders preseason, making that position more competitive than anticipated.
It didn’t carry over into the regular season opener, but a switch was made late in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. The sixth-round rookie from Colorado State played the last two series, and head coach Jack Del Rio said he could earn more playing time moving forward.
“I would like to see Cory,” Del Rio said. “I think both of those guys are guys coming out of the game that in my opinion, because we played during camp and it was close. Those guys were involved in competition and we elected to go the other way.”
The Raiders stuck with Heeney, but his leash has been shortened considerably after subpar early play.
“If you don’t make plays, and you’re in there, you leave the door open for other guys to get opportunities to play,” Del Rio said. “At the end of the day, we’re just looking for production.”
No proclamation on play calling: Del Rio said he called some plays over coordinator Ken Norton Jr. at the end of Sunday’s loss, but didn’t reveal whether that would continue in the future. Del Rio didn’t want to place blame for defensive errors on one person, include his chief defensive assistant.
“There’s not going to be any proclamation made today,” Del Rio sad. “I think for us it’s about us. It’s a collective effort. We all share in it and so I’m not going to throw any one person under the bus. It’s not any one person that’s at fault here. Collectively as a group, we have to pick it up. We have to do our share.”
Del Rio reiterated that defensive miscues are mental, and that players must “get their eyes right” in making proper reads and executing their specific job well.
"Priority No. 1 for our staff is to make sure we get our eyes where they belong with our players," Del Rio said. "Who sends the call in is not what’s most important. Priority number one has to be getting our guys to stop having eye violations. Get your eyes where they belong and do your job.”
Re-thinking 4th-and-2 ball carrier: Del Rio went for it on 4th-and-2 from his own 49-yard line in Sunday’s fourth quarter, and Jalen Richard didn’t cover the distance necessary for a first down.
Del Rio didn’t second-guess the decision to go for it, but he did question whether Latavius Murray or Jamize Olawale should’ve been carrying the ball.
“We’ve got a couple hammerheads that might have been a little better, between (Olawale) and Latavius,” Del Rio said. “We come out of there saying, ‘We’d like to have that one back.’ Didn’t really want to burn a time out there, you know? Thought it was important to keep them, but would have liked to have one of the big guys in there.”
Injury update: Raiders cornerback David Amerson suffered a concussion late in Sunday’s loss and must go through the NFL’s concussion protocol before being cleared to practice and play. Del Rio told 95.7-FM that, if everything goes well, Amerson should be ready to play the Titans next week.
Del Rio said the Raiders put Menelik Watson through an extensive workout on Monday, but at the time of his press conference he said he was uncertain whether the starting right tackle would be ready to practice this week.
He missed Sunday’s loss with a groin injury. Austin Howard started in his place.