Raiders

Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix

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USATSI

Raiders WR Seth Roberts may be clutch, but there's one flaw he wants to fix

NASHVILLE – Seth Roberts must really love Tennessee. Or country music. Or the Nissan Stadium turf. Or having a dozen-plus family members in the crowd.

There must be a reason why the Raiders slot receiver owns the Titans.

“It’s the matchups their defense has given us,” Roberts said. “When they provide certain looks, I’m able to capitalize.”

Oh. Well, that isn’t quite as fun. Roberts doesn’t care, as long as it’s effective.

Roberts has had two excellent games in Nashville, with a combined eight receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His scores decided both games. He had a game-winner late in 2015, and the decider last season.

Clutch moments might be due to more than attractive matchups in Tennessee. He creates those against everybody.

Roberts has made four game-winning catches in two seasons with the club. While everyone remembers Michael Crabtree’s two-point conversion and Jack Del Rio’s gamble, Roberts caught the touchdown pass to set that up. Amari Cooper was a supernova against Tampa Bay, but Roberts’ 41-yard overtimes catch and run beat the Buccaneers.

Consider it a good omen if Roberts scores in Sunday’s regular-season opener. Odds are the Raiders will win another clash with the Titans. The Silver and Black are 9-0 when Roberts scored a touchdown.

That stat is Roberts’ favorite. That’s why he’s driven to perform in big moments. He feels a certain devotion to the Raiders and his teammates. He wants to come through for them.

“Deep down, I want it. I want to own the moment,” Roberts said. “I want to show up for the guys around me. They’ve always had my back. I have to have their theirs.”

Roberts remains thankful for the opportunity to shine. It wasn’t expected of an unheralded kid from Moultrie, Ga. who spent time at Pearl Rivers Community College and West Alabama before going undrafted. He spent camp with the Raiders and then got cut. He re-signed with the practice squad, impressed there, and became the team’s slot receiver. The rest you’ve seen on Sundays.

Roberts turned those efforts into a three-year, $12 million contract extension with $6.45 million guaranteed. The deal came together quickly, after summer contact between Roberts’ reps and the Raiders proved desire to extend was mutual. It was a proud moment for a player without pedigree, who toiled and grinded and never gave up.

“I’ve always had to work for things my whole life,” Roberts said. “Nothing was ever given to me. It feels even better to work and earn something like this.”

Roberts wants to repay the Raiders with clutch moments and steady play. Roberts’ clutch moments have come in droves. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card. He played through a double hernia last year and never missed a practice and had a newborn in season, but refused to use that as an excuse.

He spent the offseason getting healthy, while working on one major flaw in his game.

“The drops. That’s the main thing,” Roberts said. “It’s about concentration on what you’re doing and, at the same time, not thinking about it too much. You can’t have that. You can’t be thinking, “Am I going to drop the ball?’ You can’t worry about that. I think I went through that some last year. But, honestly, I’m over it. I’m confident in everything I do now.”

Fans will like hearing that, especially after Roberts dropped 10 passes last year and six the year before. It’s a new issue for Roberts, one he believes is corrected.

“Pluck and tuck. It sounds so easy,” Roberts said. “I never used to drop the ball, so it was a strange experience going through that. That’s not me.”

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

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Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
Questionable
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report
Questionable

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”