If you watched the Oakland Raiders in 2017, you’d know that forcing turnovers – especially in the secondary – was challenging. If you’ve watched the Raiders in 2018, you’d know the defense has vastly improved in this area.
Through the first four games of the season, the Silver and Black have three interceptions, just two shy of last year’s total. Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie made it a priority in free agency to acquire players that would help the secondary, and so far the additions of cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin and Leon Hall have paid dividends, plus the team will be adding another player to the unit this week.
“We obviously got Daryl Worley back,” Head Coach Jon Gruden announced Wednesday during his media session. “We don’t know what his status is going to be for the game, but he’s back with us.”
Daryl Worley missed the first four games due to suspension, but he has officially returned to action. The former West Virginia Mountaineer looked like he’d be a quality asset during Organized Team Activities and training camp, but the four-game suspension kept him sidelined; however he’s back on the field. Wednesday, Worley had his jersey on and was out at practice, but prior to taking the field he spoke with the media about what the last few weeks were like for him.
“It’s just been longer than everyone else’s because my Sundays were from a couch, compared to being out there on the field, which was unusual,” he said. “Now that it’s finally here I’ve been preparing. They changed the rule this year so I’ve been around the facility, which was a positive both mentally and physically being able to be in the meetings, and still get my workouts in.”
Take a look through the top images from the Raiders' overtime win against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 at the Coliseum.
That rule change helped Worley in more ways than one: he was able to continue furthering his understanding of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system, bonded with his teammates and coaches, and wasn’t forced to stay away from the facility overthinking his return.
“Just being around your teammates every day that really kept me strong,” Worley explained. “I mean just them asking each and every day how I’m doing, when I’ll be back, how I’m feeling, just being able to keep up with everything going on.”
His absence from the field on gameday was understandably difficult, but even though Worley wasn’t out there with his teammates he was observing their every movement. Watching from home allowed No. 20 to see the game from a different perspective, and Wednesday he pointed out where he thinks he can help the team improve.
“We need to have more effort and that’s all around, all 11 guys. Whoever is on the field, no matter who it may be, we just need to fly around like we did in training camp on defense,” Worley said. “We need to have more fun with the game, not so much worried about the game plan and what the offense may be doing, but executing our techniques and things.”
Worley has yet to play in a regular season game this year, but the 23-year-old has two years of experience under his belt, spending his first two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. The former third-round selection has three interceptions, 19 passes defensed, two sacks, and 150 tackles on his résumé.
The defense will have the opportunity to build on last week’s win when the team travels to Los Angeles this weekend to face the division rival Chargers. It’s always a battle when these two teams collide, and I expect it to be more of the same Sunday. Pro Bowl wide receiver Keenan Allen and former first round pick Mike Williams should be a good test for the Raiders secondary. As Gruden mentioned, it’s unclear just how much Worley will play this week, but his contributions going forward will benefit the defense.