Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Titans-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at Oakland Coliseum.
Titans SS Michael Griffin vs. Raiders TE Mychal Rivera
Tale of the tape:
Griffin (33): 6-foot, 215 pounds, seventh season, Texas
Rivera (81): 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, rookie season, Tennessee
Mychal Rivera had a touchdown dance choreographed and ready go. His celebrity sister Naya Rivera and her fiance, rapper Big Sean, helped him come up with something he called the “Get Money” dance.
If only Rivera had reason to use it. The rookie hadn’t scored since Week 4, but ended that drought Sunday against the Houston Texans. He created separation at just the right time and secured a perfectly-thrown pass from undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.
The 26-yard touchdown pass put the Raiders ahead of Houston for good, and provided a signature moment for the sixth-round pick from Tennessee.
“I felt like I had a really good game,” said Rivera, who had five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown on six targets. “I need to build on that and put another one together.”
That would be huge for two reasons: 1) Tight ends haven’t produced much in the passing game, and 2) Denarius Moore won’t play Sunday, leaving precious few receiving options in the passing game.
Rivera must step up and make big plays for a second straight week.
Strong safety Michael Griffin will try and prevent him from doing so. He generally covers tight ends, though no exclusively, in the Titans coverage scheme. He’s struggled against some good ones this season, and his pass defense has been uneven.
Griffin won’t be able to take advantage of a youngster hitting the rookie wall.
“He doesn’t look tired or worn out,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “He’s still improving every week and we haven’t seen the physical drop off you expect from a young player.”
Rivera is on the ascent because he’s creating proper separation, adjust his routes to the coverage given and show quarterbacks he’s open. He’ll need to stay open and give McGloin a consistent receiving option if the Raiders are to beat Tennessee at home.
“I think Mychal Rivera’s done a nice job,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “He understands the passing game. Obviously he’s a rookie so he still makes mistake but every week I’ve seen him continue to get better, so I’m pleased with where he’s at.”