Something's gotta give for the Raiders defense. And in this week's snap counts we saw signs of change occurring. The first sign of the shakeup came late in the game with Ben Heeney taken out in favor of Cory James, who played the final 9 snaps on the defense. Jack Del Rio said Monday the change was the result of a close competition that began in camp.
"I would like to see Cory [this week]," said Del Rio. ". . . those guys were involved in competition [in camp] and we elected to go the other way. But, I think if you don't make plays, and you're in there, you leave the door open for other guys to get opportunities to play. At the end of the day, we're just looking for production."
Del Rio added that James's performance in practice last week played into the decision to give him a shot in the game.
"He's effortful," Del Rio said of James. "He's a guy that, last week in practice, I think he ended up with three turnovers during the practice. He's just a guy that [is] kind of a ball magnet. He's around the football, he's physical, he's fast. He doesn't have a lot of experience, doesn't have a lot of experience but we like his upside. And look, the two guys that I talked about that didn't really lock it down yesterday, they weren't alone. But, there were a couple of guys behind them that deserve to play a little bit and are going to get some time."
James had 2 tackles in his nine plays in the game.
Another sign of a shakeup was Stacy McGee leading all defensive tackles in snaps. He earned those snaps on the third play of the game when he got pressure up the middle to sack Matt Ryan for a seven-yard loss. He finished with 3 combined tackles which also led all defensive tackles.
On the two ends of the spectrum, you saw Sean Smith playing every defensive snap and Karl Joseph not seeing a single one. Smith had been benched in the season opener for giving up several big catches. Del Rio said Smith played better in this one. Del Rio also said we will see Karl Joseph on defense next week against the Titans, though we don't know whether that means Keith McGill will continue to start at strong safety.